Ex-teacher Tad Cummins sentenced to 20 years in kidnapping of teen student

NASHVILLE — Former Tennessee teacher Tad Cummins was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in the 2017 kidnapping of a 15-year-old female student.

Cummins, 52, was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Nashville after pleading guilty in April 2018 to federal crimes of crossing state lines to have sex with a minor and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors said in a criminal complaint after his 2017 arrest that Cummins took his victim across state lines in order to engage in "criminal sexual activity."

NBC News does not name victims of sexual abuse.

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Tad Cummins, 50, a former Tennessee high school teacher accused of abducting a 15-year-old student in March, seen in this booking photo after his arrest by Siskiyou County Sheriff?s Department?s Special Response Team (SRT) in Cecilville area of Siskiyou County, California, U.S. on April 20, 2017. Courtesy SCSO/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey announces the arrest of fugitive Tad Cummins, a former high school teacher accused of kidnapping 15 year old student Elizabeth Thomas, in Yreka, California, U.S. April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
#TNAMBERAlert: She's a high school freshman. He was a teacher accused of kidnapping her. Let's find her now! UPDATE… https://t.co/PD9FWyaUQN
Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey announces the arrest of fugitive Tad Cummins, a former high school teacher accused of kidnapping 15 year old student Elizabeth Thomas, in Yreka, California, U.S. April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
#TNAMBERAlert SIGHTING CONFIRMED: Tad Cummins and Elizabeth Thomas were in Oklahoma City on March 15th. DETAILS:… https://t.co/ZZ5oy2fDuA
This has been upgraded to statewide AMBER ALERT: Suspect Tad Cummins was a teacher at Maury Co. Schools. Anyone w/… https://t.co/6QFON36i19
NEW PICTURE: Here's the last known photograph of Elizabeth Thomas prior to her alleged kidnapping. Spot her? 1-800-… https://t.co/a2h7G50wPw
VIDEO: Here's surveillance of AMBER Alert suspect Tad Cummins, days before disappearing with Elizabeth Thomas. https://t.co/j1fuc5VJWH
New surveillance video of Tad Cummins accused of kidnapping 15 y/o girl appears to show him looking at hair colorin… https://t.co/Iii6HND7oB
TBI: Elizabeth Thomas & Tad Cummins may be wearing the clothes they disappeared in when AMBER Alert was issued:… https://t.co/2uljf6bz8d
NEW PICTURES: Various shots of Ted Cummins in the past few weeks, including the vehicle he's believed to be driving… https://t.co/ldcK8s2Kaf
UPDATE: Here's the latest in our ongoing #TNAMBERAlert. We're doing everything we can to bring Elizabeth home.… https://t.co/Iu084rDY9m
MEDIA: Here's a quick video clip of Tad Cummins & Elizabeth Thomas entering the Walmart in Oklahoma City on 3/15. https://t.co/tIsI94rT6a
Tad Cummins, a former high school teacher accused of luring a 15-year-old student into his car outside of a restaurant and disappearing with the girl, is pictured in this police handout photo. Maury County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Tad Cummins, a former high school teacher accused of luring a 15-year-old student into his car outside of a restaurant and disappearing with the girl, is pictured in this police handout photo. Maury County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
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The victim began sobbing in court when the time came to read her impact statement to the judge. A federal prosecutor read her statement aloud instead.

"What you did to me was unspeakable," the statement read. "You saw a broken girl, who was lonely, scared and traumatized. You made her feel safe and loved because you saw what she needed and made her believe you would be her protector."

"All you were was a man who just wanted sex, and you used me and manipulated me," the statement said. "Tad Cummins is a sick, disgusting criminal."

Cummins faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for crossing state lines for sex with a minor and up to 20 years for obstruction of justice, the Associated Press reported.

The former teacher in Columbia, Tennessee, was arrested in Northern California in April 2017, more than a month after he and his 15-year-old victim disappeared, sparking a nationwide search.

Authorities found Cummins and his victim after a tip came in saying the pair might being living "in a cabin in a remote area" of Cecilville, California.

Cummins had been suspended from his teaching job at Culleoka Unit School on Feb. 6, 2017, after another student saw him kissing his victim, according to a criminal complaint.

On the morning of March 13, 2017, Cummins left a note for his wife claiming he was leaving to "think" and asked her not to call the police. His victim was reported missing by her father later that evening.

Cummins was fired the day after an Amber Alert was issued by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. His teaching license was later revoked by the Tennessee Board of Education.

Cummins read an apology to his family, saying he owned "every piece of this." He apologized to his daughters and ex-wife, saying he "embarrassed them" and "ruined their lives too."

"As a father and as a parent, to the family of the victim, I'm so sorry," Cummins said, breaking down in court. "If someone had done this to my girls I would want to hurt them. I wish I could go back in time."

"To the victim, I want you to know: I agree. This was not your fault. You were a kid. My misguided attempt to help you went sideways. Anything I can do to give you closure, I stand ready."

Karen D'Uva reported from Nashville. Doha Madani reported from New York.

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