"So who are you going to believe?"
That question, posed by deputy prosecutor Lauren Carella, summed up the job jurors had in determining whether former teacher Kimberly Jo Larkin began having sex with a 16-year-old boy while he was still her student at Paradise School for Boys.
Larkin didn't dispute having sex with the teen, but she maintained the relationship began after he was no longer her student.
The young man, now 18, testified he and Larkin, now 41, first had sexual intercourse prior to him permanently leaving the residential school on June 4, 2010.
Jurors apparently believed Larkin, because they took less than three hours to acquit her of institutional sexual assault, a third-degree felony that requires some sort of institutional relationship between defendant and victim, such as teacher and student, or prison guard and inmate.
The jury convicted Larkin of corrupting a minor and furnishing alcohol to a minor, both misdemeanors.
Sentencing is set for 3 p.m. July 16, and defense attorney Terrence McGowan said he expects Larkin will receive a probationary sentence.
Career over: "It's a bittersweet victory," he said. "Her career is over."
The corruption conviction bans her from teaching for the rest of her life, he said.
"I'm not excusing her behavior," McGowan said. "She crossed the line. She screwed up. ... She's just glad to avoid a felony conviction."
Larkin declined comment as she left the courtroom.
Carella said it was a just outcome.
"Kim Larkin was held accountable today by the jury's verdict," she said.
Assuming Larkin is sentenced to probation, she will be subject to standard sexual offender probation conditions, which include sex-offender counseling and having no contact with minors, according to Carella.
During his closing argument Wednesday morning, McGowan called the victim a liar.
But Carella, in her closing argument, challenged jurors to decide for themselves who the real liar is.
"She has everything to lie about," the prosecutor said of Larkin. "She has everything to lose."
'I wanted to help': Larkin testified in her own defense Wednesday morning, insisting the sex didn't begin until early July 2010, when the teen was no longer her student.
She said that on June 5, 2010 -- the day after he left Paradise School -- she drove him to fast-food restaurants to help him apply for jobs.
"I wanted to help him. He had no family," Larkin said. "He was just very lost."
She admitted to having sex with the teen five times, all in July 2010. The sex happened at her ex-husband's house, at a friend's home and at two motels, she said.
Alcohol: Larkin also admitted the teen drank alcohol in her presence, which she'd bought on at least one occasion, but said she didn't furnish it to him.
"There was alcohol sometimes that he would help himself to," she said. "I suggested to him that it wasn't a good idea (for him to drink)."
Larkin said the relationship ended when she learned he was texting a girl.
"Unfortunately, I did become jealous," she said, and broke up with him.
But the teen wouldn't take no for an answer, according to Larkin.
Threat alleged: "His exact words were, 'This isn't over until I say it's over,'" Larkin told jurors, adding the teen threatened to tell school officials about the affair.
"I became very scared," she said.
That's when she had a male friend call the teen, she said. The friend pretended to be a private detective and suggested to the teen that Larkin could claim rape, "to try to put some fear into him," Larkin explained.
She said she paid her teen lover $160 to delete incriminating text messages from the cell phone she'd bought him. Those texts included a photo she'd sent the teen of her genitals, according to testimony, as well as declarations of love.
The young man previously testified he took the money but kept the text messages because he was afraid Larkin would accuse him of rape. He also testified he was the one who broke off the relationship because Larkin had become jealous.
Cell phones: Under cross-examination, Larkin said she bought the teen a total of three cell phones -- because he lost the first two -- and insisted she bought all three in July.
Carella later expressed doubt about that timeframe, telling jurors, "I submit she was talking to him (on those cells) well before June 4, 2010."
Larkin told Carella she wasn't afraid of being arrested for having sex with a teen.
"I was afraid of losing my job," she said. "Criminal charges weren't really the issue."
LIU teacher: Larkin, of Forrest Drive in Gettysburg, worked for Lincoln Intermediate Unit No. 12 for nearly a decade and was suspended without pay after the allegations came to light, an LIU official said. Larkin said she subsequently resigned.
She was hired in August 2004 as a special-education teacher, she said. Although she was employed by the LIU, she worked with students at Paradise School for Boys.
-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org, 505-5429 or twitter.com/ydcrimetime.