Angela Honeycutt, the suburban mother whose slutty, drunken behavior put her on center stage at a sleepover for teenage boys last spring, was cleared yesterday of charges that she sexually assaulted two of those youths.
Honeycutt, 39, of Lower Makefield, was acquitted by a Bucks County Court jury of statutory sexual assault, illegal contact with a minor and indecent assault. After four hours of deliberation, the six-man, six-woman panel convicted her only of two misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors.
"I'm happy about it," Honeycutt said outside the courtroom. The jury was "correct in saying that I made bad judgments throughout the night. I apologize for that."
Honeycutt and her lawyer, Niels Eriksen, had conceded that she behaved outrageously at the April 11-12 overnight party at the home of a friend and neighbor.
They did not dispute that she danced erotically in front of the ninth-grade boys. Or that she kissed and exposed herself to some of them. Or even that she showered naked with two boys and let them masturbate on her.
The jury found that behavior to be criminal. But the panel also accepted Honeycutt's claim that she touched neither boy sexually in the shower, as the teens had claimed.
The verdict is "what we argued the entire case," Eriksen said.
"The jury found her inappropriate for certain actions, but on the majority of the conduct, the most serious charges, not guilty," he said. "It's a victory as far as we're concerned."
The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Mark Walz, stressed that the conviction signals more than just inappropriate behavior.
"The jury clearly recognized her conduct wasn't just outrageous and wrong, but it was illegal," Walz said. "Now she's going to have to face the consequences."
No sentencing date was set. Judge John J. Rufe ordered Honeycutt, already on probation for a drug offense, held on $15,000 bail.
Standard-range sentencing guidelines call for Honeycutt to receive a prison term of three to 14 months, Eriksen said. Walz said he would seek punishment in the aggravated range, 17 to 35 months.
"This is about as serious as corruption of minors gets," Walz said.
The case stemmed from a teen party last spring for about 20 boys and girls at the home of Honeycutt's neighbor and friend Lynne Long-Higham. She had asked Honeycutt to help her chaperone the ninth graders, who were friends of Long-Higham's teenage son.
After all but six boys had departed, witnesses said, a drunken Honeycutt engaged in provocative behavior with at least three of them.
One boy, 15 at the time, testified that he had sexual intercourse with Honeycutt in the shower. A second boy, 14 at the time, said that she had masturbated him in the shower.
Police were alerted after the first boy told his mother what had happened. The two consented to a wiretap, and in a phone call confronted Honeycutt, who repeatedly denied sexual contact.
"I never touched him, I kissed him. That's the extent of it," Honeycutt said in the phone call.
Two teens testified that the 15-year-old had interrupted his shower with Honeycutt to borrow a condom from one of them. Soon after, they said they then heard the sounds of bodies slapping together and Honeycutt moaning.
In closing arguments, Eriksen called the boys' accounts inconsistent and unreliable. He said the taped call, in which Honeycutt issues repeated denials, was the "most credible piece of evidence."
But Walz said that the boys were so mortified about what had happened that they had no reason to exaggerate it.
Although the boys were willing participants, consent was not an issue. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for anyone under 16 to have sex with someone at least four years older.
Walz had urged jurors not to use a double standard because Honeycutt is female.
He asked them to imagine a single father hosting a sleepover for 14- and 15-year-old girls, and asking a male friend to help chaperone. The male friend gets drunk, kisses the girls, exposes himself to them, and has sex acts with them in the shower.
"The law is the same," Walz told the jury. "It is illegal to have sex with children."
Long-Higham, 46, who testified against Honeycutt, has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors. She is awaiting sentencing.