A plea deal in the high-profile case of Susan Brock, 49, who had a three-year sexual relationship with a teenage boy, means an embarrassing trial has been avoided and Brock will serve less time than if she had been found guilty.
But perhaps most importantly, the deal worked out for the estranged wife of Maricopa County Commissioner Fulton Brock means a young victim won't be victimized again by having to testify, a sex offender expert says.
After more than four hours during a court proceeding in Maricopa County Superior Court on Monday, the deal was reached as Susan Brock pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted sexual conduct with a minor for the relationship which began when the boy was 13. She is facing seven to 15 years in prison, will have to register as a sex offender when she is released from prison and also will be on lifetime probation, according to the plea agreement.
Two days after Brock was arrested by Chandler police, she was indicted on Oct. 29 of 15 counts in connection with more than 30 acts she was accused of committing with the boy in her home, her mother's home, her car, his car, and in secluded places in Chandler after she would pick him up from his school or home. None of the acts included intercourse, but did include oral sex, police said.
Brock will be sentenced March 16 to between seven and 15 years in prison for one of the three counts. The plea agreement stipulated that the sentence for the other two counts will be lifetime probation. Brock will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. The amount of counseling she will have to undergo will be implemented at the time of her sentencing.
Dr. Sandra Nettles, of Deer Valley Counseling in Phoenix, counsels sex offenders, including numerous educators involved in sexual misconduct with underage students. She told the Tribune on Tuesday she does not agree with plea deals, but said they are expected and all too common.
"Attorneys representing sex offenders tell their clients that if you go before a judge or a jury, you're going to get 30 years to life," Nettles said. "But, if you plead guilty to this, you can get 12 to 15 years."
The benefit, however, is that a young person doesn't have to go into court, face the abuser and testify, she said.
Nettles also said that such cases of sex abuse are common and such "relationships" can go on for a long time before the offender is caught.
"It's not rare, but it's not rampant," Nettles said. "If the family is active and addresses the issue head-on and gets the victim some counseling, they can come out alright later on. It's a traumatic experience. If the family of a sexual abuse victim tries to sweep a relationship under the rug like it never happened, that victim can have problems in life later on - including substance abuse, hypersexuality, and an inability to have a healthy relationship with a partner. Having problems after going through such a sexual relationship, also can lead to suicide."
The relationship in Brock's case came to light when family friends intercepted messages on the boy's iPod Touch that included references to sex acts, a police report said. The boy's father also provided police with a printout from his home computer, on which he had installed a program that reads and stores text - including chat messages.
Fulton Brock filed for divorce from his wife soon after she was charged, and now the Brocks' 21-year-old daughter, Rachel, also is accused of molesting the same boy when she was 18 and he was 14. Rachel Brock has not been charged in that crime, but the investigation is ongoing.
A friend of Susan Brock's, Christian Weems, 37, a Chandler political activist, also has been arrested in the case. Weems is accused of deleting incriminating evidence from the victim's Yahoo account after obtaining the password from Brock.
"What a tragedy for him (Fulton Brock) and his family," said attorney Mel McDonald, who represented Jennifer Mally, 26, a former Paradise Valley High School English teacher who was arrested in 2007 after a 5-month sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy. "It's just sad." McDonald added, "The catastrophe for Susan Brock is the age of her victim. The older the victim, the better disposition you can get for your client. When an adult is sexually involved with a person who is 14 or younger, it becomes a dangerous crime against children. What Susan Brock pled to is a very predictable result. She started the relationship with the boy when he was 13. She was warned by school officials and the boy's family to stay away from him, and that indicates some kind of obsession with the boy."
McDonald said the plea agreement seems harsh since Brock never had sexual intercourse with her victim.
"Her life is pretty well over. She has a pretty ominous set of options facing her even after she gets out of prison. She will be a registered sex offender, she'll be on lifetime probation and she'll be required to undergo counseling," he said. "Some people will think she'll be free, but she really won't be. Her life as she knew it, will be over."
Theron Hall III, the attorney who represented Susan Brock, did not return several phone calls from the Tribune seeking comment.