(Stillwater, Okla.) — Former Yale High School math teacher and coach Joseph Kolt Palmer, 29, avoided a trial before a Payne County jury this week by pleading guilty on Jan. 2 to a single count of sexting a then-17-year-old female student in 2016.

Palmer, who remains free on $10,000 bail, did not enter a plea to a count of second-degree rape that remains pending and carries a maximum penalty of a 15-year prison term, court records show.

Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler ordered Palmer to return to court on Feb. 5 for sentencing on the sexting count, which carries a maximum penalty of a 10-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.

When Palmer had failed to appear in court for a final pre-trial hearing on Dec. 19 on sexting and rape charges, the judge took a bench warrant for his arrest under advisement until Jan. 2 at 1:30 p.m. – when Palmer did appear and enter his guilty plea to only sexting the student.

Palmer’s defense attorneys had told the judge on Dec. 19 that they were notified Palmer was in a car accident on Dec. 18 and hospitalized, court records show.

Palmer had been arrested in the Payne County case on Sept. 20, 2016, by sheriff’s deputies in Kaufman County, Texas, according to a news release from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Palmer had reportedly been teaching in Texas.

On Aug. 20, 2018, the judge had ruled that statements made by Palmer to an OSBI agent regarding his alleged relationship with a then-17-year-old female Yale High School student could be admitted into evidence at his jury trial, which was scheduled to be held this week.

“There were no threats, no promises, no coercion, no deception by the interviewing agent,” made to Palmer when he spoke to OSBI Agent Richard Brown in 2016, the judge ruled at the close of a 40-minute hearing last August.

After the original sexting charge was filed, which was later amended to include a second-degree rape count, Payne County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas said in an email, “This is a very serious charge. We don’t want this defendant to ever be able to teach again, and that is our primary goal.

“The (Yale) school itself handled the matter promptly and well from this end. The criminal side took more time and we needed cell phone records.

“I think anyone who reads them will have a clear picture of what was occurring with this victim. It’s entirely possible there are other victims,” the DA added.

The case was investigated by the OSBI on the request of Yale Police Chief Phillip Kelly for assistance on May 2, 2016, according to the agent’s affidavit.

When Palmer was interviewed by the OSBI agent four days later, he said he had received his teaching degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond in May 2015, the affidavit said.

Three months later, Palmer was hired as a full-time math teacher and coach for Yale High School, the affidavit said. Palmer was the assistant coach for the boys’ football team and the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, the affidavit said.

“Palmer was married and had one child with another one on the way,” the affidavit said.

While teaching at Yale High School, Palmer met a 17-year-old Yale High School junior, the affidavit said.

The student provided Palmer with her cell phone number and the two “would talk with each other via cell phone calls and text messaging during school hours and after school hours,” the affidavit alleged.

Palmer admitted to the OSBI agent that he used his iphone6 to send inappropriate text messages to the student about touching her in sexual ways and about having sexual intercourse with her, the affidavit alleged.

“Palmer felt he violated his responsibilities as a teacher by allowing himself to have a relationship and sending inappropriate text messages,” with the Yale student, the affidavit alleged.

“Palmer felt he should have never allowed the relationship to have started,” with the student, the affidavit alleged.