The state Judicial Building.

The Iowa Supreme Court has denied the appeal of a former teacher who says his constant hugging of a student was not sexual exploitation

Bradley Wickes was a social studies teacher at Camanche High School in 2015 when he was convicted of sexual exploitation by a school employee for a relationship with a female student. The information that led to the charge showed the two had sent hundreds of messages to each other through social media and they often hugged each other in the school and at school events.

Wickes appealed the conviction saying the hugs were given “for the purpose of reassurance, comfort, or casual friendship” and there is insufficient evidence to uphold the conviction. He also argued the 5-year prison sentence was cruel and unusual punishment.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Wickes’s intention with the hugs went beyond mere reassurance and support for the student. The ruling says the abundance of messages sent to the student about how attractive he found her, his desire to be in a more intimate relationship with her, and how he was in love with her, linked his sexual desire toward her. with the hugs they exchanged. The ruling says the photos of the student and Wickes hugging at the school bonfire and homecoming dance show that these hugs went beyond simple, brief hugs for reassurance or comfort. These photos show the pair in a close embrace, not a mere hug.

The court also upheld his 5-year prison sentence saying the fact that Wickes’s crime involved hugs instead of an actual sex act does not take away from the emotional and psychological toll his actions had on the student he exploited. Wickes also had to register and be placed on the sex offender registry and a no-contact order was issued preventing Wickes from contacting the student.

Here’s the full ruling: Wickes-ruling-PDF