The victim, now a grown man, stood before the judge in a dark suit, reading from a small notebook and struggling for the words to describe the teacher who had taken advantage of him.
Phoebe J. Rockwell, the former Rockville High School choral teacher who admitted having a three-year affair with him when he was a troubled student a decade ago, watched from the defense table, pain etched on her face.
She had been pretty, smart and charismatic, he said. He was coping with his parents' separation. She told him she loved him, and passion "got the best of us." She was 35 at the time. He was 15.
Yesterday, the long emotional saga that haunted student and teacher for 10 years came full circle when a Montgomery County judge sentenced Rockwell, 47, to 30 days in jail and three years' probation.
Despite the victim's plea that she be spared prison, Rockwell was led away in handcuffs, mouthing to a sobbing friend in the courtroom: "I'm okay. I'll be fine."
The sentence, imposed by Circuit Court Judge Vincent E. Ferretti Jr., came at the end of a two-hour hearing in which an anguished Rockwell apologized to the victim and his family, and he spoke for the first time publicly about the crime.
The Washington Post generally does not publish the names of sex crime victims.
Rockwell pleaded guilty Monday to one count of child abuse.
The defendant, whom her attorneys described as an almost "saintly" teacher for 25 years in the county school system, met the victim during a play audition in 1987. He was shy and insecure and she was supportive and attentive, prosecutors have said.
Their affair began with her rebuffing his first kiss, but it developed into a passionate secret relationship--which she told him he could never reveal--that included intercourse and oral sex in her Gaithersburg home, her school office and her car.
She broke up with him when he finished school. He first revealed the affair to a Catholic priest, who was bound by faith to secrecy.
Later he informed a counselor, who, with the victim's consent, told authorities, prosecutors said. Police then had the victim call Rockwell, and police tape-recorded her implicating herself.
The victim, now 26, was calm and matter-of-fact as he spoke to the judge. "I know she felt kind of pushed into this," he said. "I can't say for three years she was pushed into every single circumstance. . . . She often told me how much she loved me."
But he asked for leniency. "I feel that she's not a bad person," he said. "She's just a little nutty. She needs counseling. . . . I kind of tend to believe she really does feel guilty.
"It's a spiritual loss for her," he said. "I don't think she's grounded spiritually. I don't think she's ever really had a close connection to God."
Later, a tearful Rockwell turned to apologize. "I am sorry for the pain and confusion I have caused [the victim] and his family," she said. "I ask everyone that I hurt for eventual forgiveness.
"I will continue to regret my choices and my behavior for the rest of my life, and I ask the court for mercy," she said.
Assistant State's Attorney Kristen Bender had asked for an 18-month sentence, arguing that Rockwell was "predatory" and "skilled at deception."
Plus, "the defendant robbed [the victim] of his high school years," she said. "He had no prom, no homecoming."
Judge Ferretti said: "Good people do bad things. . . . But all the good you do cannot wipe out the wrong."
"The fact that you sought her out isn't the issue," the judge told the victim. "She had the obligation to say no."