Local News

Former Band Director Pleads No Contest to Student Charge

Posted April 15, 2003 8:04 a.m. EDT

— A former Smoky Mountain High School band director has pleaded no contest to taking indecent liberties with a 15-year-old student.

Jackson County Superior Court Judge Marcia Hyatt will sentence Michael Arthur Sandford in July.

As Sandford entered the plea Monday, the victim's mother watched from the back of the courtroom. She said her daughter lost her trusting nature, lost weight and became increasingly angry.

Assistant District Attorney Monica Leslie said e-mails from Sandford to the girl started out "friendly" but later took on a sexual tone.

In December 2002, Sandford drove the student to her home after band practice and then kissed her, the prosecutor said.

"He's not denying he's made mistakes," defense attorney Frank Lay said. "He made the decision that is in the best interest of all of the students he's had over the years. He wants to minimize the pain."

Sandford had worked as a band director in the area for 22 years.

Leslie said the investigation started when the student confided in a friend, who then told adults.