A former Ellis Middle School teacher was sentenced to eight years in a state prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to five counts of sexual battery by an authority figure.
Caleb Bullock, 27 of Hendersonville, was arrested and charged on Aug. 3, 2020 for having contact of a sexual nature with a 17-year-old in the youth group Bullock led at his church.
Bullock was starting his fifth year of teaching English at Ellis at the time of his arrest. He was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case. Sumner County Schools Spokesperson Jeremy Johnson said that Bullock would be terminated following his recent plea deal.
In a settlement hearing in Sumner County Criminal Court on May 20, Bullock pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, a Class C felony with a sentencing range of three to six years in state prison.
As part of his agreement, Bullock was sentenced to four years in prison on each charge with two of the charges running consecutively and the other charges running concurrently, or at the same time.
Criminal Court Judge Dee David Gay approved the agreement adding Bullock’s full sentence is eight years in a state prison at 30 percent.
Bullock will have five felony convictions on his record and will be required to register as a sexual offender, Gay noted. Bullock was also ordered to pay a $200 fine per count and is not allowed to have any contact with his victim, the judge added.
Sumner County Assistant District Attorney General Jenni Smith briefly presented the facts of the case had it gone to trial.
Bullock, a youth group leader at Hartsville Pike Church of Christ, touched the victim in a sexual manner on five different occasions in the summer of 2019 and in the early winter of 2020, according to Smith. All of the occurrences happened on sleep overs after church events with other juveniles present sleeping in different beds and cots, she said.
“Are you guilty of five counts of sexual battery by an authority figure?” The judge asked Bullock.
“That’s what I’m pleading,” said Bullock.
“OK, you’re guilty,” said Gay.
“That’s what I’m pleading,” Bullock replied for a second time.
“I’m just asking are you guilty of sexual battery by an authority figure?” the judge said.
“Yes sir,” said Bullock.
Smith then read a statement from the victim’s mother who was also in the courtroom.
“Distrust, betrayal, heartbroken. This is what comes to mind when I was asked if I had any words to say to you. I trusted you with my son,” the mother said in her statement.
“I am truly saddened by the pain you have caused my family and yours. I pray that you find forgiveness in God’s eyes. As for my forgiveness, on a strictly human level, it would be impossible for me to forgive you for what you have done. But with God’s help forgiveness is possible. It doesn’t mean it’s easy or will happen overnight…But I do pray that God helps me find forgiveness.”
After the judge imposed the eight-year sentence, Bullock’s attorney, Thomas Martin, asked if he could have an extra day to report to jail in order to spend more time with his family.
“Because of the nature of this case, the length of the case, that will be denied and he will be in custody,” Gay said.