Local News

Students back Johnston coach facing sexual misconduct charge

Posted March 30, 2012 1:13 p.m. EDT
Updated March 30, 2012 6:55 p.m. EDT

— A Johnston County high school wrestling coach had the full support of his team, friends and families Friday morning as he went to court for the first time to face allegations of sexual misconduct with a student.

James Joseph McNamara II, 25, was arrested early Thursday evening on a charge of taking indecent liberties with a 16-year-old girl who attends Corinth Holders High School in Wendell, where McNamara also teaches.

He has been suspended with pay since March 6, when the allegations against him surfaced. Investigators say the alleged incident happened off school grounds.

McNamara, who has been with Johnston County Schools for two years, is out of jail on a $5,000 bond. He adamantly denies the claims, and his family says that he is still trying to figure out what exactly the accusations are.

About 20 students on the Corinth Holders High wrestling team, as well as some of their parents, were at Friday's court appearance.

"I don't believe any of it," junior Charlie Gray said. "A lot of times, with cases like this, people don't support (the person charged) because it's usually true. We know Coach Mac, and if you were to have a conversation with him, you would know he'd never do something like this.

"He’s just that kind of person. He would get shy and turn all red if you even made an inappropriate joke around him," Gray continued. "He’s just that kind of person. He wouldn’t even have the capacity to think about doing the things he’s charged with."

Gray and others say that they can't believe the allegations and that McNamara is someone they hold in high esteem and see as a mentor and leader.

As an educator, they say, he has helped them stay in school and on the right paths and holds his students to high standards.

"My son is a man of high character. He has a passion for what he does. He has a passion for coaching. He has a set of standards that is well above others," his mother, Diana McNamara, said. "Never would he endanger the career that he has worked so hard to establish."

Diana McNamara, who is also a Johnston County Schools teacher, says the claims are false and that her son is being made an example of because of how poorly, she says, the school system handled a recent case involving a former science teacher accused of molesting at least six boys.

"As a parent, to see your child go through such a thing, it's an awful thing, especially when this is completely untrue," Diana McNamara said. "He's done nothing wrong, and to see him vilified by the school system that refuses to stand behind him – this is a well-orchestrated attempt on their part to try to shame him because he won't back down."

Despite her claim that her son has been cooperating with authorities, the Johnston County Sheriff's Office says that McNamara has been "unwilling to participate" in the investigation.

She said that once her son hired an attorney, investigators did not try to talk with him again. She also said that the school system has presented him three times with the opportunity to resign.

"He has never been uncooperative," Diana McNamara said. "The only thing he has been uncooperative with is refusing to resign, because he has done nothing wrong."

The Johnston County school system had no comment Friday, but referred to a statement it issued Thursday, saying that administrators are conducting a confidential review of the claims and are cooperating with law enforcement.

Parents and students, meanwhile, have taken to social media to voice their support for the coach and have launched an online petition on his behalf.

"Nobody really knows for sure, but I think he’s been wronged, and his reputation is now tarnished," sophomore wrestler Mike Holly said.