Rape charge added in alleged teacher-student relationship

A former Yale High School math teacher who was charged with sexting a then-junior high school student in 2016 now faces a potential rape charge after the Payne County District Attorney's Office submitted the new charge.

The alleged incident occurred between Aug. 1, 2015, and May 31, 2016, while the student and 28-year-old Joseph Kolt Palmer were in contact with each other while Palmer was employed at the school. In Oklahoma, rape can be defined in this situation, even if both parties are of the age to consent:

"Where the victim is at least sixteen (16) years of age and is less than twenty (20) years of age and is a student, or under the legal custody or supervision of any public or private elementary or secondary school, junior high or high school, or public vocational school, and engages in sexual intercourse with a person who is eighteen (18) years of age or older and is an employee of the same school system."

Palmer had originally waived his right to a preliminary hearing on the charge of engaging in sexual communication with a minor by use of technology, and faced up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both on the charge. Now, the case has been remanded to the preliminary hearing docket for the new charge, and Palmer has hired a new attorney. He could face 1-15 years in prison if convicted of second-degree rape.

"Palmer was arrested in Kaufman County, Texas, on Sept. 20, 2016, on a felony arrest warrant. According to KFOR in Oklahoma City, Palmer moved away from Yale during the summer and became employed at Kemp ISD – he was placed on leave after administrators learned of the charge against him.

The report from KFOR indicates that the district's superintendent, Phil Edwards, said that Palmer was screened and passed because the charges in Payne County never showed up. The Oklahoma State Courts Network website indicates the charge was initially filed Sept. 15, 2016.

According to an affidavit filed in the case, Palmer was hired to teach math at Yale High School in August 2015 after he received his teaching degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond months prior, and he was an assistant coach for the boys' football team as well as both the boys' and girls' basketball teams.

The student, a junior at the time, gave Palmer her cell phone number and the two began to call and text each other during and after school hours. Palmer told an agent with the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation that he used his iPhone 6 to send the girl "inappropriate" text messages about sexually touching and having intercourse with the student, and that he "felt he should have never allowed the relationship to have started" with her, according to the affidavit.

The investigating agent showed Palmer 14 pages of text messages that were extracted from a "consensual" search of the girl's phone, and examples of conversations between the two during March and April 2016 indicate the two might have engaged in sexual intercourse.

Palmer is scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. Thursday to set a hearing date.

Twitter: @ahrens_tim

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