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Sex allegations against ex-headmaster 'creepy' but not criminal, defense says

Posted September 27, 2013

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— Defense attorneys in the trial of a Zebulon man accused of hugging a woman while he was sexually aroused and pulling down the pants of another woman told jurors during closing arguments Friday that the allegations against his client might be creepy but that they are not criminal.

"He's not on trial for sexual harassment. He's not on trial for saying inappropriate things. He's on trial specifically for the charges before you, and I submit to you that the state hasn't met its burden," Robert Lane said. "It doesn’t matter if you like Brandon Smith or don't like Brandon Smith. That's not the question here."

Smith, the former headmaster at East Wake Academy in Zebulon, faces two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery and two counts of assault on a female by a male that stem from accusations by two former teachers who say he inappropriately touched them.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for nearly three hours Friday afternoon before being sent home for the weekend.

If convicted on all four charges, Smith could face a maximum of 120 days in jail and would also have to register as a convicted sex offender.

Because of the sexual nature of the charges, WRAL News is not identifying either of the women.

One claimed Smith often made unwanted comments, including some about her wanting to sleep with him, and often hugged her to the point that she was uncomfortable. In November 2011, she testified, he hugged her while he had an erection and then whispered in her ear, "Do you see what you do to me?"

Another said that – in addition to hugs and inappropriate comments – in August 2011, he pulled down her pants, exposing her left buttock, in a teacher's lounge so that he could see a tattoo on her lower back after telling her "I just might not be able to control myself."

"He opened her pants," Wake County prosecutor Melanie Shekita told the jury of seven men and five women. "He took the liberty. He took it without her consent and without her knowledge and exposed her buttocks."

She conceded that the comments didn't warrant charges but that Smith's actions were without a doubt a crime.

"What the defendant did was for his own sexual gratification and for his own sexual arousal," Shekita said. "He used his status as a good educator at a good school to do what he wanted to do."

Smith's defense argued that the women's reasons for the charges were financially motivated because they had filed a lawsuit against Smith.

"In essence, they're asking you to be a co-conspirator to help them in this case, in the sense that 'Convict Brandon Smith,' and it makes the lawsuit better,'" Lane said. "This is all about a civil case when you get down to it."

A major contention by Lane was that the claim about Smith being aroused when he hugged the teacher was manufactured and only mentioned it recently when she learned that sexual contact was necessary for a sexual battery charge.

But Shekita said the lawsuit, filed against Smith in September 2012, was in response to a defamation lawsuit he filed against them in April 2012 and that it was proof that bolstered the teacher's claim. A judge dismissed Smith's lawsuit in November 2012.

"She, back in September 2012, talked about groin-to-groin contact," Shekita said. "So, to suggest that the first time she mentioned this was at a deposition three weeks ago is contrary to the evidence."

Both women, she added, initially went to East Wake Academy's Board of Directors with concerns, and only after seeing their concerns weren't being taken seriously went to police.

"They went to the board, because they wanted this predator to stop preying on women at that school," Shekita said. "They never asked for one red cent until he sued them."

17 Comments

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  • COPs eye Sep 27, 2013

    I wonder if these women had husbands/boyfriends and one of them beat the snot out of Smith for doing these disrespectful things, would Smith file assault charges against the men and have them arrested? Probably so. Something not right with this verdict.

    Click to view my profile sillywabbitthepatriot

    I was wondering the same.

  • geraniumposey Sep 27, 2013

    Violating someone--without their permission--IS criminal.

  • bseebeckb123 Sep 27, 2013

    Smith is a creepy sick man. This also happened back in '99-00 when he was the principal at Githens Middle School in Durham. Same thing, different year, same situation. How many times is he going to get away with this? Granted we're talking about two adults, that still doesn't make it right. Don't dismiss this again, and let him go on to another job and third victim (that we know of) only to have the same thing happen again. Don't take this lightly, do the right thing and don't turn a blind eye this time.

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Sep 27, 2013

    This guy should be a politican. He'd fit right in.

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Sep 27, 2013

    I wonder if these women had husbands/boyfriends and one of them beat the snot out of Smith for doing these disrespectful things, would Smith file assault charges against the men and have them arrested? Probably so. Something not right with this verdict.

  • 75Tarheel Sep 27, 2013

    Your right....we haven't heard it all. BUT, from what I heard the charge and testimony meets all the elements of sexual battery. If, you put your hands on me I can charge you and convict you of an assault. I did it dozens and dozens of times as a LEO. The civil court will find in the plaintiffs favor after the criminal trial as well.

  • pax2U Sep 27, 2013

    He deserved to be slapped when he did it, but had any of those subordinate teachers done that he would have taken out assault charges and the Board would have fired them. They did the correct thing and went to the Board. What relief came? None. HE SUED THEM for defamation. Then they went to the police. Well I hope pulling a woman's pants down without her permission this meets the criminal definition of something he's charged with. IT SHOULD. And it is sad that it took filing criminal charges to get a predator out of the school & away from children, and other female teachers. Any of whom were potential future victims because he had a pattern of escalating sexually based predatory conduct that didn't stop even after he left because of similar misconduct elsewhere.

  • JAT Sep 27, 2013

    wonder if the cop who said he didn't think the things he was doing was "se*ual" in nature would like it if those things were done to his wife, girlfriend, mother or daughter?

  • 75Tarheel Sep 27, 2013

    Let me say this - it's a good thing these ladies weren't my wife, girlfriend, sister, mother or other relation. Read between the lines.

  • lemonlime Sep 27, 2013

    His defense is that the digusting comments he made are not "criminal"?!? They should be criminal. He was the BOSS, the LEADER! He used his position of power to take sexual advantage of MULTIPLE women. All of this while he was in charge of a school full of CHILDREN! He should be held accountable for his actions.

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