A former counselor at the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento has pleaded no contest to having sexual contact with a client.
Theresa Caroline Gooch, who turned 25 this week, agreed to a one-year county jail term and five years probation when she entered her plea Oct. 8 in Sacramento Superior Court.
Gooch could have been sentenced to multiple years in state prison if she was convicted at trial. She also will be required to register as a sex offender until the end of her probation.
She admitted to two counts of having oral sex with the 16-year-old female victim. The criminal complaint against Gooch said the contact took place between Sept. 1, 2012, and March 1 of this year.
Gooch also pleaded no contest to furnishing the girl with marijuana.
Sacramento prosecutors said they made the offer after considering Gooch’s age in comparison to the victim’s, the defendant’s lack of a criminal record and the lack of any forced contact. The girl’s family also was satisfied with the plea bargain, prosecutors said.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Barbour declined to comment.
Judge Richard K. Sueyoshi scheduled Gooch’s sentencing for Nov. 14.
Sacramento attorney Stewart Katz, who is representing the girl and her family in a civil action against the receiving home, confirmed that his clients agreed to the deal.
“The district attorney did run it by them, which was sort of nice in a way, when they actually do that instead of just pretending that they do,” Katz said.
Katz said the plea deal “seems reasonable, given that (Gooch’s) superiors at the Children’s Receiving Home aren’t being charged for their responsibilities in the situation. They’re suggesting all the blame lies with her, which it doesn’t.”
David Ballard, the chief executive officer of the home that provides temporary emergency shelter for children who are placed there as a result of neglect and abuse, said agency officials “are glad to hear that Ms. Gooch has accepted responsibility for her actions.”
“Our hearts continue to go out to the victim and the victim’s family involved in this case,” Ballard said in a written statement. “We are heartened to learn that they will at least be spared the emotional turmoil of a trial on this issue.”
The victim in the case was in the receiving home as a result of suffering physical abuse from her mother’s boyfriend, who has since been imprisoned, Katz said. She is now “trying to get her life back together,” he said.