Photos | Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office
Matthew Sparks (left) and Jeremy “Danny” Hamilton, former Baldwin County school teachers, were accused in separate cases of sexual contact with students.
Two former Baldwin County public school employees are having their day in court, both accused in separate instances of having sexual contact with students.
On May 2, 25-year-old former substitute teacher Jeremy Michael Sparks received a suspended five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to having sex with a student under the age of 19.
Sparks will remain in custody at the Baldwin County Corrections Center until he complies with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), then he will be placed on probation for a period of five years. He was also ordered not to initiate contact with the victim in the case, who authorities said was a 15-year-old girl at the time the crime was reported in 2017.
After a grand jury indictment in May 2018, Sparks initially pleaded not guilty to the charge. He was also charged with two counts of sodomy and one count of second-degree sex abuse. With Thursday’s guilty plea, the other charges were dismissed. Judge Scott Taylor presided over the case.
Sparks, who had no prior felonies on his record, was facing two to 20 years in prison, according to sentencing guidelines.
In a separate but similar case, the jury trial will begin Monday for 52-year-old former Central Baldwin Middle School teacher John “Danny” Hamilton. He was arrested in February 2018 and charged with eight counts related to the alleged sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl.
Hamilton worked as a social studies and history teacher in Baldwin County since 2000 and drove a bus for the school system since 2003.
In a news conference following his arrest, authorities announced Hamilton was facing two charges each of sodomy, second-degree sexual abuse, school employee engaging in a sex act with a student under the age of 19 and school employee having sexual contact with a student under the age of 19.
Reportedly another teacher at the school found a note between students indicating the alleged abuse and after a swift investigation by the human resources department, the Robertsdale Police Department was notified the same day.
Baldwin County District Attorney Robert Wilters said investigators believed the acts occurred in the teacher’s classroom during school hours, but Hamilton may also have had contact with the student off campus.
Despite early fears there may have been other victims, no additional charges were ever filed. Earlier this year, however, prosecutors filed a motion to submit character evidence suggesting Hamilton coerced another student to allow him to follow her on Snapchat.
The motion said Hamilton told the girl not to send him “face pics” and when she became uncomfortable with his requests, she reported it to school officials. Later, she asked to be removed from his class.
Afterward, according to prosecutors, Hamilton went to look for the girl when she did not show up for his class and at other times, would stare at the girl when she rode on the school bus he drove.
Reportedly, Hamilton “was instructed not to engage in similar behavior by school officials, and … there is evidence that the Defendant had searched for the victim’s Facebook page on his computer.”
The intent of the motion is to demonstrate motive, prosecutors wrote, and the motive is an “unnatural sexual desire for young girls.”
Baldwin County School Superintendent Eddie Tyler fought through tears at the news conference to say “we have zero tolerance for anyone who preys upon children. Any individual found guilty of such a heinous crime should be punished by the fullest extent of the law.”
Noting all school employees are background checked prior to hiring, he admitted the process is “no predictor of future behavior.”
“I’m at a loss. My heart goes out to the family — any families. We’re dealing with several issues right now,” he said. “I think most of our citizens in this county know we work hard to do the right thing by children and employees.”
Hamilton is facing more than 40 years in prison if convicted on all charges. More than 15 witnesses have been subpoenaed to testify this week. Judge Clark Stankoski is presiding. Both defendants are being represented by attorney John Beck.
This story will be updated as it develops on lagniappemobile.com.
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