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Former Upper Arlington coach accused of raping student pleads guilty to reduced charge

Courtroom gavel with scales of justice in the background.
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A former Upper Arlington coach and teacher accused of carrying on a sexual relationship with a student pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of felony child endangerment.

Joel T. Cutler, 48, of Upper Arlington, was accused by a former student of sexual assault between Aug. 2000 and Dec. 2003, starting when she was 12.

Cutler was originally indicted on nine felony charges: two charges of rape, four charges of sexual battery, and three charges of unlawful sexual contact with a minor.

Cutler’s attorney, Mark Collins, confirmed that Madison County Common Pleas Court Visiting Judge Dan Hogan accepted the plea. A jury trial had been scheduled for Nov. 27.

The plea agreement includes Cutler forfeiting his teaching license and resigning from Upper Arlington Schools, where he had been on unpaid administrative leave since charges were filed against him in June 2022.

Cutler will not be required to register as a sex offender. The maximum sentence he could receive for the felony child endangerment charge is three years in jail and a $10,000 fine. A joint recommendation from the prosecution and defense, however, suggests community control, commonly known as probation. A sentencing date has not been set.

In a letter dated Nov. 3, Essie Baird, the former student who accused Cutler, wrote to the court in “vehement opposition” of the plea agreement, saying it was “not a proportional punishment for a teacher who spent years sexually exploiting a student.”

“To accept the proposed agreement would be an insult to me, my family, the detectives that worked tirelessly on this case for over two years, all former students, athletes, and families who trusted Mr. Cutler for so many years,” Baird wrote.

Cutler had been a gym teacher at Greensview Elementary School and was the high school football coach from 2014 to 2018, Upper Arlington Superintendent Robert Hunt confirmed in an email dated Nov. 16 that was sent to all district families.

Hunt said Cutler had not had contact with students or worked in the schools since the summer of 2021, when the district first learned of a criminal investigation against him.

A district spokesperson said Cutler officially resigned on Thursday.

Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.