GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — A former Grand Forks teacher has been sentenced to nearly two years behind bars for sexually assaulting a student.

Forty-two-year-old James Whalen pleaded guilty to sexual assault and corruption of a minor. Whalen was a teacher at Central High School when he assaulted the female student, who was 16 when the assaults began in the winter of 2015-2016.

In arguing for a lighter sentence, Whalen's attorney said the teen was a "precocious" girl who "facilitated" the sexual relationship. Prosecutor Haley Wamstad told the judge it was unacceptable that the defense placed blame on the victim. Wamstad said Whalen, as a teacher, was responsible for mentoring and protecting children.

KVRR-TV reports Whalen addressed the victim and her family in court and said the entire situation has been devastating for everyone.

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