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Teacher: Ex-Zebulon headmaster gave her sexually aroused hug

Posted September 25, 2013
Updated September 27, 2013

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— Jurors in the criminal trial of Brandon Smith, the former headmaster of a Zebulon charter school, heard for a third day Wednesday claims of unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate touching – including testimony from a former teacher who says he hugged her while he was sexually aroused.

The teacher, whom WRAL News is not identifying because of the nature of the charges, said the encounter with Smith happened when she and he were alone for a moment at a school event in November 2011 – four months before Smith was fired from the position he held at East Wake Academy for nearly 10 years.

"He had an erection," the teacher said during tearful testimony.

"How did you know?" Wake County Assistant District Attorney Melanie Shekita asked.

"Because I could feel it pressed up against me, and he made the comment, 'Do you see what you do to me? And now, I have to go back out there,'" the teacher replied.

It wasn't the first time Smith made such comments, she said, and never did she do or say anything that would have signaled she wanted something more than a professional relationship.

Smith is charged with two counts of sexual battery and two counts of assault on a female in connection with the teacher's claims, as well as the similar accusations by another school employee who testified Tuesday that he pulled down her pants without her consent to see a tattoo on her lower back.

On another occasion, while eating lunch alone in her classroom, the teacher testifying Wednesday said Smith walked in as she was getting ready to take a bite. Instead of continuing on, however, she put down the food.

"He told me, 'No. I like the way you wrap your mouth around that sandwich,'" she said. "He asked me if he could hold it. I said no and tried to redirect the conversation."

The defense contends that the teacher's claims are financially motivated because of civil litigation brought against him in response to a defamation of character lawsuit Smith filed against her.

During cross-examination, attorney James Hairston questioned her at length about the hug and her initial written synopsis for police about "unwanted touching."

"Nowhere in that document do you mention to anyone in the world the word 'erection' or anything close to the fact that he had one," Hairston said.

The woman responded that her statement was brief and her choice of words was because she was uncomfortable describing the details.

"That's exactly what I meant by that," she said.

Several other teachers – who are not the subjects of the criminal complaints – also testified about similar behavior that Smith displayed toward them.

One recalled a time during an after-school event in the school gymnasium in which he kissed her while they were out of the view of others.

"As uncomfortable as it was, I didn't feel comfortable saying anything, because he's a superior," she said. "He was in a position of power, and I was also afraid to rock the boat, because I knew that I was on his good side and that's where I knew I needed to stay if I wanted to stay at East Wake Academy."

Other witnesses have echoed the testimony, saying Smith created an atmosphere of intimidation in which they feared for their jobs.

"He made it clear that he was in control, and it was his way or the highway," a school employee testified Tuesday.

On cross-examination, however, the other witnesses have said Smith acted inappropriately but never touched them in a sexual way – an element required for the criminal charges that he faces.

The state, however, is using the testimony to establish a pattern of behavior by Smith – something that still continued toward the teacher after the hug in which he was allegedly sexually aroused.

By December 2011, the teacher said, the situation had reached a point that she was ready to quit but that she stayed on because she had no other source of income.

In the months that followed, the teacher testified, she became physically ill, was unable to keep down food, missed work as a result and had several stays in a local hospital.

After discovering another teacher at the school was claiming Smith pulled down her pants, she went to the charter school's board of directors to complain.

"I wanted him to stop. I didn't want to have to keep going to school and feeling like I did," the teacher testified.

A civil lawsuit, she said, was never a factor in her decision, and money was never a motive.

"I didn't want this to happen to me anymore," she said. " I didn't want it to happen to anyone else."


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  • lazyrebel Sep 27, 2013

    I am tired of women getting a free ride. They complain that they wanted to be treated equal, but when you talk to them and they don't like it, they haul you to court. Why did you WRAL put this in sepereate articles, the first one said the police said there was no crime. Case closed

  • 678devilish Sep 27, 2013

    b/c we all know of someone who cried wolf!

    Of course we do, its WOMEN LIKE YOU WHO CRY WOLF

  • 678devilish Sep 27, 2013

    AND women, stop dressing suggestively- to provoke these types of men. Be professional and dress smart!!


    I agree with you totally. The certain women will dress so provocatily (spelling) and then complain highly when certain men approach them. Stop sending the signals and these certain men will most likely not be attracted to you. Dress down will not kill you. Why do you have to expose certain body parts any way? That is not really being a lady. What did your mother and father teach you about respect for yourself? You need to learn it and asap.

  • blkmamba Sep 27, 2013

    tiger50 you sicken me with your ignorant comment. It shouldn't matter what a person wears to warrant sexual harassment.
    I am a female and in my late teens I was subject to a very older man who as a vendor at the retail store I worked in harassment. At first it was just friendly conversations, then it seemed he would seek me out so I started avoiding him when he would come. In the end, he finally had me relatively alone and said very sexual comments under his breath, I asked for him to repeat it and he laughed and didn't. Now I did not complain to anyone b/c I "did not have a case", young and dumb! Now I wish that situation would happen now that I am full grown adult! I am ready, and I am not afraid to lose everything I have in the name of what is right and wrong. I am the example to my daughter, it is not ok for anyone to make you feel the way I did. I was not scared, but I knew it was inappropriate. I tell my son, be careful too, b/c we all know of someone who cried wolf!

  • lec02572 Sep 27, 2013

    He is so done.

  • cpdtg Sep 27, 2013

    I needed a good laugh
    thank you very much

  • firstperson76 Sep 26, 2013

    This is a tough situation for this guy. She is making it hard for him.

  • 678devilish Sep 26, 2013

    maybe they should just drop the charges. the women cannot tell exactly what occur between them and this man.

  • 678devilish Sep 26, 2013

    If this man was known for his sexual advances, why did it take these women so long to report him?

  • 678devilish Sep 26, 2013


    Wrong story:(