Former Dos Palos High School math teacher Craig Branstetter was sentenced last week to one year in jail and five years on probation for having a sexual relationship with an 16-year-old female student.
Branstetter, a 43-year-old Chowchilla resident, pleaded no contest Nov. 17 to a felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor as part of an agreement that dropped four other charges of having sex, molesting and sending harmful matter to a minor.
"His position of public trust does factor in and was considered," Merced County Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby said.
Branstetter's sentence was in line with previous convictions in similar cases, Colby said. In June, former Merced High School science teacher Blia Yang received the same sentence for having sex with a 16-year-old female student.
"This case was pretty straightforward, a teacher who had sexual intercourse with one of the students," Colby said.
Also, Branstetter will not be required to register as a sex offender after a psychiatric report determined he was not a pedophile, Colby said. Branstetter may apply for home confinement in lieu of jail, but that decision is up to the Merced County Sheriff's Office.
His attorney, Fresno-based Jeff Hammerschmidt, didn't respond Wednesday to requests for comment.
Branstetter joins Yang and others on an increasingly long list of public authority figures in Merced County charged and convicted of sex-related crimes.
In October, Ernesto Cortez, a 52-year-old ex-first-grade teacher in Los Banos was sentenced to nine months in jail after pleading no contest to a felony count of child pornography possession.
Former Pacheco High School teacher Gary Bettencourt was sentenced last year to eight years and four months in prison for having a sexual relationship with students.
One of those students also is alleged to be a victim of former Los Banos police officer and teacher Dusty Norris. Norris is awaiting trial on child sex crimes.
Robert Gamel, a former lead priest at St. Joseph’s in Los Banos, pleaded no contest in 2016 to child-pornography possession. He was arrested again earlier this year in a second case after probation officers said they Gamel still was in possession of the same illegal image that landed Gamel in jail before. He’s pleaded not guilty in connection with the second case, but his attorney has said Gamel is contemplating a possible plea deal with prosecutors.
Branstetter was ordered to report to the Merced County Jail on Jan. 3.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562