Earlier this week, an Alabama judge ruled that an 18-year-old female who married her former math teacher soon after graduating from high school will have to testify against her husband during his upcoming criminal trial on a single charge stemming from their years-long relationship, PEOPLE confirms.
Inside a Blount County courtroom on Monday, Judge Dennis Odell determined Amy Nicole Cox isn’t protected by spousal privilege, and therefore will be called to testify against Matthew Shane Wester, her 38-year-old spouse, a prosecution source tells PEOPLE.
Wester was indicted in January 2015 on one count of a school employee having sexual contact with a student under the age of 19. The couple wed five months later, the source says.
In Alabama, spousal privilege protects husbands and wives from implicating their spouses in court proceedings.
Wester was placed on paid leave two months ahead of his indictment but tendered his resignation about a month after his indictment, which alleges the former Cleveland High School educator “intentionally and knowingly engaged with a male or female student under the age of 19 in sexual contact which was done for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either party.”
In a motion filed three weeks ago, Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey argued the marriage between Wester and his student was contrived in order to keep Cox from testifying against him.
The prosecution source says Wester was married at the time of his arrest, but filed for a divorce in January 2015 that was granted four months later.
“On June 13, 2015, just 67 days following the divorce from ‘wife No. 1,’ and less than five months prior to the initial trial setting in this matter, the defendant married the student whom he subjected to sexual contact while he was a teacher and she was student,” Casey wrote in her motion.
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“It is the state’s position that the marriage to the student is a sham by the defendant to prevent the student from testifying against him,” Casey concluded.
Casey’s motion argues that the teen wife has no marital privilege in this instance because she was the defendant’s alleged victim.
The judge ruled that Casey, who cited Alabama court rulings dating back to the 1800s, convincingly showed wives have been forced to testify against their husbands in previous cases where the bride was the alleged victim.
“Clearly if a 38-year-old teacher can induce an 18-year-old student to engage in sexual contact with him, and to subsequently marry him, he can persuade ‘one who has already fallen victim to his influence that she must also protect him’ at trial,” Casey wrote.
Odell’s order notes “there is no spousal privilege barring the testimony of the defendant’s current wife in that she is the victim in this case.”
Wester’s case is set to go to trial next week in Oneonta, Alabama.
Wester has previously pleaded not guilty to the charge.