Thursday, October 15, 2009

Witness places teacher with student

24 calls or texts per day
between the pair, police say

This from the Enquirer, Photo by Patrick Reddy:

A Dayton High School senior testified Wednesday that he was flabbergasted when he spotted his friend and classmate after midnight walking through MainStrasse with an English teacher at the school.

He was the only witness during two days of testimony that places now-fired teacher, Nicole Howell, with the 16-year-old student she is accused of getting drunk, seducing and having repeated sex with...

The friend testified that he watched the victim meet Howell on a street corner late last year and then stroll down a side street with her into the darkness. How sure are you it was Howell, Kenton County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Casey Burns asked the friend.

“100 percent,” he responded...

The victim told his friend that he had a “code name” name for Howell so people wouldn’t learn of their forbidden relationship. The victim would call Howell by the name Heather, the friend testified.

Howell’s cell phone number was found saved in the victim’s phone under the name Heather, Covington police Detective Bryan Frodge (pictured above) said when he took the stand.Howell sent 430 texts to the victim from Oct. 29, 2008 through Dec. 1 of that year, Frodge said. The victim responded with 360 texts to Howell during the same period of time. Those numbers don’t include the 25 telephone calls between the two, Frodge said.

That averages to about 24 calls or texts per day between the pair during that period of time.

Another number dialed from Howell’s mobile phone was to a pizza restaurant on a date that the victim claims he ate pizza with Howell on the floor of her bedroom.

No records of the content of the texts have been presented at trial, but prosecutors and Deters both agree some were of a “sexual nature.” Deters has characterized the exchange as “sexting,” a term used to described sexually explicit text messages...

The accused, Nicole Howell, faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of first-degree sexual abuse and is expected to take the stand today.

ABC News reported in July,

Howell says it not only never happened, but there is no evidence of other than the ramblings of a high school kid who at first claimed the two were involved in a threesome with another male student.

Howell is now planning to sue the school district, the police department and the boy who she says made it all up...

[Howell was] an assistant cheerleading coach, putting her right in the middle of a throng of cheerleaders and football players who practiced and socialized side-by-side.

Howell said the beginning of her first year as a teacher was going well until early December when she started hearing rumors in the hallway.

"There were a couple of students snickering about a teacher involved in a threesome," she said. Then the second boy who was supposedly involved, then a senior, told her the rumors were about himself, her and the accuser.

"I'm a first-year teacher," Howell said. "I didn't know what to do."

So she sought the advice of a fellow teacher who told her to speak to the principal to get ahead of the rumor mill.

The principal, she said, "told me at the time ... usually these things die out. We'll look into it.'"

For a few days, it seemed like the matter had petered out.

Howell said she was told that both boys denied any sexual contact with her to the principal. Other rumors that followed, including that the accuser's father drove his son to her apartment for sex, was also disproved, Howell said.

But on Dec. 15 when she was suspended, Howell said the principal told her that the accuser, who had been threatened with possible expulsion for lying about such a serious allegation, had recanted his denial and was accusing Howell of having sex with him.

Howell said she left school in disbelief and hired a lawyer.

Howell said that while she knew who her accuser was and had interacted with him as part of the football-cheerleading team dynamic, she never once laid a hand on him or any other student, nor had she even been alone with him in school or otherwise.

Somehow, she said, the boy had gotten her cell phone number and the two had begun a series of platonic text messages in October and November. But Howell didn't think anything of it since 25 cheerleaders on the team had her number and texted messaged her also. And she knew of other teachers who texted with their students....

It's hard to imagine the jury buying "the platonic argument" if evidence shows her asking the student what “he had to work with in bed” and other sexually explicit comments.

Howell told ABC News that she fears that even if the case is dropped or she's acquitted, she will never work as a teacher again once administrators see she's been charged with sexual abuse.

Her advice to other teachers? Be "super cautious" in every dealing with a student. "I worked so hard to get where I needed to be and start a career," she said. "And it just got ripped away."

Lat week the Herald-Leader reported that Kenton Circuit Judge Gregory Bartlett issued a gag order stopping attorneys from commenting on the case after defense attorney Eric Deters compared the prosecution's case to the prosecution of three Duke University athletes. Deters claimed prosecutors were trying to "intentionally and maliciously" destroy his client's life.

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