Former teacher sentenced; student says she’s a survivor, not a victim

Posted at 11:37 AM, Apr 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-10 21:58:53-04

FARMINGTON, Utah -- A man who taught and coached girls basketball at a Kaysville charter school was sentenced Thursday after he pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual activity and conduct with a minor female student.

Stephen Niedzwiecki originally faced 11 charges relating to an alleged sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. In January, he struck a plea deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to four reduced charges.

The case became far more public when the victim decided to speak out, hoping to encourage more victims to seek justice.

"When the judge read his finding, I started crying because I was so happy that justice was going to get served and that he couldn’t hurt any other young women," said Jaime Heiner, who is now 18 years old.

FOX 13 News has a policy to not identify the victims of sexual abuse, but in this case Heiner approached FOX 13 News, wanting to bring attention to the issue. See the video above for comments she made both inside and out of the courtroom regarding the case.

"I don’t consider myself a victim," she said. "I see myself as a survivor. Because victim is a word that gives him power over me, whereas survivor is a word that gives me that power."

Heiner also spoke to the judge in the sentencing hearing, with Niedzwiecki sitting close behind her at the defense table. She asked the judge to impose as harsh a sentence as possible.

"When he began to pursue me sexually I did not know how to respond to him and I froze," Heiner said. "Over and over again I froze. I never physically fought back and often submitted to his demands, but that does not mean I was consenting."

Niedzwiecki asked the judge for mercy.

"Whatever sentence you deliver will be just," he said. "I however ask you to have mercy when I deliver my sentence. I want to return to my therapy and complete the repentance process of my church."

Niedzwiecki pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old. These charges are usually first-degree felonies, but were amended to third-degree felonies as part of the plea deal.

Niedzwiecki was given a sentence of zero to five years in prison, to be served consecutively, for each of the four charges.

Jaime Heiner was a student and player on the girl’s basketball team at Jefferson Academy Charter School in Kaysville, where she met Niedzwiecki.

According to police, their student/teacher relationship turned sexually abusive in the summer of 2011.

The alleged abuse took place outside of school, in places such as Niedzwiecki’s Bountiful home.

Niedzwiecki was cuffed and taken to prison immediately after sentencing.