Crime & Courts

Clover teacher avoids 5 years in prison, gets 90 days for sex with student

Michael Landreth cries as he apologizes in court Tuesday.
Michael Landreth cries as he apologizes in court Tuesday.

A former teacher at Clover High School who bragged about buying booze for underage students and had sex with a student was sentenced to 90 days in jail Tuesday after pleading guilty, but avoided a potentially far longer prison sentence because the victim did not want to testify.

Prosecutors said Michael Landreth, 25, abused his authority as a teacher. But Landreth’s lawyer said the sex, while wrong, was consensual and that female teachers routinely get probation or even pre-trial intervention for misdemeanors that allows records to be wiped clean after inappropriate relationships with students.

Landreth, who taught math at Clover in 2013 and 2014, cried in court Tuesday when he said he disappointed his family and made a mistake. Landreth had to surrender his teaching license and is barred from ever teaching in public school again. Landreth now lives in Anderson County and works at a restaurant, hotel and auto auction.

“I am very, very sorry this happened,” Landreth said.

Landreth pleaded guilty to what he was charged with in January – sexual battery with a student age 16 or 17, without coercion or force – after his boasting landed him in handcuffs. That charge, under the law, means the sex was consensual even though the victim’s family and prosecutors say that Landreth was a predator who sought out the young man.

The victim’s mother, in a letter read in court, said that Landreth “preyed on an unsuspecting boy” and the victim thought it was great and cool that a young male teacher took such an interest in him. Landreth, the mother said in the statement, “lured” her son to Landreth’s Lake Wylie home with alcohol then had sex with him when the victim was vulnerable.

The victim was not in court and did not want to attend any hearings, which is one reason prosecutors offered the the plea deal for a charge that carries up to five years in prison, said Erin Joyner, 16th Circuit assistant solicitor. Landreth received three years’ probation but does not have to register as a sex offender under the plea deal.

Yet Joyner did not downplay the seriousness of the crime despite the inability to pursue a harsher sentence without a willing witness to testify, calling Landreth’s giving teens alcohol and then having sex with one student an “egregious abuse of power” and “betrayal of trust” by a teacher.

Landreth’s lawyer, Sarah Drawdy of Anderson, said in court that women who have sex with students of the same age routinely walk away without prison time, but Landreth, because he is male, was targeted for prison time and harsher punishment, the effects of which will last forever because of publicity from media coverage and the permanent loss of his teaching license.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065