A former Lavaca teacher accused of sexual assault and indecency was acquitted Thursday afternoon (June 20) by a Sebastian County jury in Greenwood.
Jack James, 52, was charged with three misdemeanor counts of attempted sexual indecency with a child, three felony counts of sexual indecency with a child, one felony count of sexual assault and one misdemeanor count of harassment.
The jury found him not guilty on seven of the eight counts, but remained deadlocked on one charge. A judge said the harassment charge will be decided at a later date and the jury was dismissed.
The jury began deliberating Thursday morning.
Jurors heard testimony from witnesses for the state and defense before closing arguments wrapped up Thursday morning in Greenwood. The prosecution argued that James used his position of authority for his own sexual gain and the case is about what the students went through. The defense argued the prosecution failed to meet the required burden of proof and that no evidence proves James is guilty.
A 12-person jury and two alternates was made up of six women and eight men.
James was found guilty on three counts of attempted sexual indecency with a child and one count of harassment in November 2012. He was sentenced to serve a year in jail and a $1,000 fine on each misdemeanor count.
James was arrested in August. James asked two male students to expose themselves to him, but they refused, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. The alleged offenses occurred during the 2011-12 school year, state police say.
The town of Lavaca has been split since this whole case began.
“I worked with James personally through the school system and I never seen him act in any inappropriate way with any child,” said Janice McElroy.
A former student of James said when he was arrested it was the talk of the town.
“I mean just rumors. I mean saying he was being inappropriate said that he’d be saying inappropriate things,” said Haley Banning.
“For me, it was sad for me because I don’t believe for one second those kids were lying,” said Dana Clunn.
Many questioned whether the alleged victims were telling the truth or setting their teacher up for failure.
“Why on earth would kids get back at someone buy torturing themselves and putting themselves through this because they’ve been harassed and ridiculed,” said Clunn.
“I am from being abused myself and you do not go around the person that abused you on a day to day basis,” said McElroy.
Those in town said as they move on James and the boys involved with the case will never be the same.
James was also an alderman for Ward 1 in Lavaca.