A former southwest suburban junior high school teacher and basketball coach was sentenced to 24 months probation Thursday after she admitted to having sexual contact with two of her former students.
Cook County Judge Kerry Kennedy called the case one of the worst he dealt with and warned Cara Labus that she wouldn’t want to be back in front of him for violating her probation.
“Ms. Labus, you are a predator,” the judge said bluntly after Labus pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated battery.
Labus, 36, spoke softly in one-word answers when questioned during the online hearing but declined to make a statement.
Labus first met her victims — sisters — when she was their basketball coach at Jerling Junior High School in Orland Park. After the siblings graduated, Labus’ relationship with the pair turned sexual, prosecutors said.
The sexual abuse took place between 2008 when the girls were 14 to 2014 when they reported the crimes, prosecutors said.
The sisters, in a victim-impact statement read aloud in court, cast Labus as a manipulative predator who befriended them as they reeled from their father’s suicide.
Labus was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse in 2015 when she was working at a school in Joliet. The charge was later reduced to aggravated battery as part of her plea agreement with prosecutors.
Labus, who lives in Joliet, will have to complete a sex offender probation program, but will not have to register as a sex offender, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office said.
A victim’s advocate at Thursday’s hearing said the sisters have accepted the plea agreement but said that they partly did because Labus would likely not have faced prison time because she would have received credit for time served while on electronic monitoring as she awaited trial.
It had also been five years since the attacks, the advocate said, and the victims were ready to move on.
Both sisters, now adults, said that Labus’ abuse has had lasting impact, causing them to struggle with mental health issues, drugs, and their ability to trust people.
“A teacher and coach is supposed to protect kids, not abuse them,” one of the victims said in her statement.
“I will not let my abuse define me,” the woman wrote. “I will let it define you.”