A Tennessee teacher who became the subject of a nationwide manhunt after disappearing with a 15-year-old student has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
Tad Cummins, 52, received the jail term on Wednesday, nine months after pleading guilty to obstructing justice and transporting a minor across state lines for sex.
Prior to sentencing, the victim, Elizabeth Thomas, was given an opportunity to face Cummins in the federal courtroom in Nashville. But when it came time to speak, the now 17-year-old was overcome with emotion, Nashville’s WTVF News reported.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Beth Meyers read a victim impact statement Thomas wrote. It read, in part:
“All you were was a man who wanted sex, and you manipulated me and used me just for that. I don’t know if you have ever taken or could ever truly take responsibility for those actions. First, you said I was to blame. Then, you said the devil made you do it. But if that’s true, then you are the devil.”
HuffPost does not typically identify juveniles in cases involving sexual allegations. But in this case, Thomas and her family have participated in media interviews.
Cummins, a father of two and former health science teacher at Culleoka Unit School, stood accused of abducting Thomas from Columbia, Tennessee, on March 13, 2017. The following month, a tip led authorities to a remote area of Siskiyou County, California, where they found Thomas and Cummins. The cabin they were staying in was more than 2,000 miles from where the search began.
Speaking on his own behalf Wednesday, Cummins apologized to Thomas’ family.
“If someone had done this to one of my girls, I would want to hurt them and I fully understand if you feel that way about me,” he said.
Prosecutors had asked for a 30-year sentence for Cummins, who faced a mandatory minimum of 10 years imprisonment.
In handing down the sentence, which came with lifetime supervision, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger said Cummins committed a “pretty despicable crime,” The Associated Press reported. However, the judge also said she had to consider mitigating factors, including Cummins lack of a prior criminal record and his willingness to plead guilty to the charges.
After the hearing, U.S. Attorney Don Cochran called Cummings a “sexual predator.”
“We think it’s a serious sentence,” Cochran at a press conference. “Twenty years is a significant amount of time. He’s going to have all that time to think about what he did.”