PHOENIX — Editor's Note: The above video is from an earlier broadcast.
A former Valley teacher was sentenced to prison last week after pleading guilty to sexually abusing one of his students, court records show.
Justin M. Walters, 30, was sentenced last Friday to four years in the Arizona Department of Corrections followed by a period of probation, public records show.
Walters was arrested last year after one of his juvenile students at Desert Garden Montessori School, located near Warner Road and 51st Street, accused the teacher of sexually abusing and grooming them over the course of several months.
The allegations accused Walters of inappropriately touching the student during school field trips to Puerto Rico and Disneyland, court records show, as well as repeatedly sending sexually-explicit text messages.
Walters fled the country once police began investigating the allegations but he was eventually apprehended and brought back to Arizona to stand trial. He was charged with 10 felony offenses and later pleaded guilty to three of them.
But Walters' legal troubles don't appear to be over quite yet.
A civil lawsuit was recently filed against him and Desert Garden Montessori by the defendant's victim that faults the school's employees for not protecting the student.
Rasmussen Injury Law, a Valley firm representing the victim, accused the school of "turning a blind eye" to Walters' behavior around his students.
"They shielded him from discipline and enabled him to take advantage of his position of trust as a teacher of (the victim), a minor, to groom her and then serially sexually abuse, exploit, and assault her over a period of at least nineteen months," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit additionally lists James and Shetal Walters, founders of the school and Justin's parents, as defendants in the victim's lawsuit.
Desert Garden Montessori previously told 12 News that it had cooperated with police during the criminal investigation and that the safety of its students was its "highest priority."
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