LINCOLN SQUARE — A judge sentenced a former Lincoln Square elementary school teacher to 16 years in prison after he pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student and possessing child pornography.
Prosecutors charged former Waters Elementary teacher Jason Gil in 2019 with felonies for taking advantage of his trusted position as an educator to sexually abuse a minor.
Prosecutors alleged Gil sexually assaulted the former student on at least two occasions and sent text messages to her referring to the sexual assaults. They also said he had 25 naked photos of the minor on his phone.
The former teacher is accused of sexually abusing the student from 2017 through 2019. Gil kissed the student in a classroom, asked her to send naked pictures of herself to him, and was engaged in “sexual activity” with the girl in his car and at her home when parents weren’t home over that two-year period, prosecutors say.
Since his arrest, parents have pleaded with prosecutors not to cut a deal or be lenient. They asked Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to “prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”
Gil has been released on electronic monitoring since 2020. On Thursday, standing before Judge Anjana M.J. Hansen at the Skokie courthouse, Gil admitted his guilt and apologized.
“I’d like to say, I’m sorry for everything that has occurred,” Gil said.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal sexual assault and two counts of solicitation of child pornography. Prosecutors said the convictions carry a combined sentence of 16 years. He will be credited with three and a half years time served, officials said.
One of Gil’s attorneys, Adam Sheppard, calculated he could be released in six years, a sentence that angered parents.
“A judge sentenced him to 16 years. Calculating in [possible] good time credit, much of that time will be served at 50 percent. So he’s likely to serve about another six years,” Sheppard said outside the courtroom.
Gil’s mother, three other family members and his pastor sat in the court audience in support of him. They declined to comment after the hearing.
Gill will be required to register as a sex offender. Since his arrest, he was divorced by his wife, is “very contrite” and has cooperated with police by confessing, another attorney, Barry Sheppard, said.
“He took therapy while he was in jail,” Barry Sheppard said. “He lost his family. But had the case gone to trial the potential penalties were much more severe. It could have landed him in prison for the rest of his life.”
Since Gil was first charged, parents from the Waters community have organized into the group Protect CPS Students. On Thursday 17 parents, teachers and former students from the group sat in the audience.
One of those parents, Angie Schlater, wore a white shirt with the words “minors cannot consent” written on it. Her youngest daughter was in Gil’s class the year he was arrested, she said.
“It’s impossible for an adult to have a sexual relationship with a minor. What happened was rape,” Schlater said. “The evidence speaks for itself.”
“It never came to my mind a teacher I looked up to, who gave everyone nicknames, would do this. I can not forgive him for that,” Cristian Perez, 21, told Block Club. “It’s not acceptable in society and the outcome of this case is just ridiculous.”
While the Water’s group was unhappy the sentencing wasn’t more severe, parents like Carolyn Byerly-Dean were still “grateful” Gil was being held accountable for his criminal behavior, she said.
“We have been watching, waiting, asking questions for two and half years,” Byerly-Dean said. “Helping to make sure this didn’t get buried or swept under the rug. We know it’s terrible. We know it makes people uncomfortable. But it can’t be kept in the dark. We have to try to prevent this from happening again.”
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