Teacher accused of sexual assault gets deal, no time

Monday, October 15, 2012
Andrew David Ray pleaded guilty to third-degree battery in a plea deal with prosecutors and the sexual assault charge was dropped.

GREEN FOREST -- A former coach and teacher's aide at Green Forest High School accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl will serve no time after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors, court documents show.

Coach Andrew Ray, of U.S. Highway 62 in Berryville, was charged in April with second-degree sexual assault, a Class B felony, after a student at Green Forest High School alleged he had assaulted and groped her in the field house.

On Oct. 10, the sexual assault charges were dropped in exchange for Ray's pleading guilty to third-degree battery, a Class A misdemeanor.

He was given a one-year suspended sentence for the crime and ordered to hand over his teaching license and $1,170 in fines and fees.

Among the terms of his suspended sentence are requirements that he maintain a job and abstain from drugs, alcohol, weapons, and criminal activity. Unless he violates these conditions, he will remain a free man.

Ray had been a boys' basketball and girls' softball coach at Green Forest High School, where he also taught an alternative learning class. He resigned in March, after the allegations of abuse surfaced.

Authorities were first notified of the allegations in February. Court documents show that one of the victims' parents called the Child Abuse Hotline on Feb. 16, after the victim texted that she had been molested that morning.

The case was passed on to Kevin Estes, an investigator with the Crimes Against Children Division of the Arkansas State Police, who called Det. Tom Hayden of the Green Forest Police Department.

Police Chief John Bailey told Hayden to pass the information along to Green Forest Sgt. Gaylon Riggs, who is also the resource officer at the high school. Riggs began investigating that same day.

On Feb. 17, the victim was interviewed by forensic interviewer Michelle Steiner. Estes, Hayden and Riggs watched via video.

The victim told Steiner she had been in the field house the previous morning, doing laundry, when Ray approached from behind and tried to pull her pants down.

She resisted, she said, but Ray succeeded in disrobing and groping her. He relented when she continued to struggle. She told Steiner she left as quickly as possible after finishing the laundry.

When she left the field house, she said, Ray followed her to her next class and peered in the window while she sat in the room.

This was not the first instance of inappropriate behavior by Ray, the victim told investigators.

During a Feb. 21 interview, she told Steiner Ray had frequently flirted with and harassed female students, often slapping their rears with his hand or keys as they left the school bus. She said the behavior disturbed many of the girls and had even led the cheerleading team to make a pact to all exit the bus at the same time.

She said that a friend of hers had told her of also being assaulted by Ray.

During the interview that day, she described at least five occasions over the previous six months when she had been harassed by Ray.

Cheerleading coach Vicky Brown witnessed one of these incidents and later described it to investigators. It had occurred the previous year, on a basketball trip, she said.

Ray had been sitting behind the bus driver, with the victim in the seat behind him. Brown sat across the aisle. She described seeing Ray throw what appeared to be a candy wrapper down the victim's shirt. She said she told the girl to zip up her jacket and gave Ray a disapproving look.

On Feb. 17, after hearing of the field house incident, Brown assembled her cheerleaders and asked them if they had ever been touched inappropriately by Ray. Brown said the girls responded that they avoided the coach because his flirtatious behavior made them uncomfortable.

When asked why she had not told anyone of Ray's behavior before, the victim told investigators the coach and his wife were acquaintances of her family's.

Carroll County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Rogers recused himself from the case early in the investigation because of a conflict of interest.

Since then, the case has been in the hands of Baxter County Prosecuting Attorney Ron Kincade. Kincade could not be reached for comment, despite repeated attempts to contact him before press time.

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  • No time? Horrible justice. Simply Horrible.

    -- Posted by baloney on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 11:27 AM
  • My son witnessed this deviant slapping a girl on the butt at ball practice. The courts have to start setting examples for these terrible crimes. This pleading down and out is ludicrous. They should go to court and then lets see what happens.

    Way too many of these crimes happening lately and not much more than a hand slap in return. Shame on You!

    -- Posted by wanderer98us on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 12:10 PM
  • I thought teachers and coaches were mandated reporters. I wonder why a fellow coach and teacher can witness this and not report it, instead give a look and let the predator keep going.

    -- Posted by jojo1 on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 2:15 PM
  • It seems to be the way these kinda cases(involving) children is going lately.. several cases in the neighborhood, I guess it's ok as long as it's a kid and you are part of the good ole boy club. when did it quit becoming a horrendous act to violate any child any time???? as long as we continue to plea bargain away these types of crimes we will continue to have them. it takes a act of bravery for these kids to come forward with the details then to have it brushed under the rug is unthinkable, how betrayed these kid's must feel by a system that is supposed to protect them... folks it's time we rethink our loyalties. stand up for the kids!!!

    -- Posted by justmimi on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 2:35 PM
  • Pathetic prosecuting. Why was old Tony recused? A friend or relative of his?

    -- Posted by rockpilefarmer on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 4:13 PM
  • The problem is with the Arkansas State Laws; they protect the criminals instead of the victims. Until the laws are changed we will see more this. Was the plea fair? No. did he get what he deserved? No. But it was better than having a highly paid defense attorney getting evidence thrown out which would leave the case "he says she says". At least he can no longer teach in the school system and that means a lot to parents with young girls. There are many facts that were not reported in this article as well as statements that are inaccurate. @rockpilefarmer; he recused because a staff member's husband works at the school.

    -- Posted by victimsmom on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 5:28 PM
  • Having taught all of these girls, it breaks my heart that their pleas for help were swept away. I can verify that the child abuse hotline was called several times regarding this incidence. Yes, the article is extremely inaccurate. Not only does the judicial system need to be revamped, the media reporting the "truth" needs a make over as well. I am disappointed in you, Carroll County News. I hate that all this happened. What readers fail to realize is that several, one in particular, young lives have been ruined. We can scream and yell and finger point, but the fact of the matter is, this young victim has a mark on her psyche that can never be erased. We can hide behind the masque of justice only so long. There comes a point in time when we must stand up and say this is enough.

    -- Posted by teacher1942 on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 6:40 PM
  • It is a sad sad day when we as parents have to send our children to school in the open arms of child molesters....the school system disgusts me.....all who were involved should pay...and if it were my daughter this happened to, I wouldn't stop until every last teacher involved had what's coming to them!!

    -- Posted by grnigirl on Wed, Oct 17, 2012, at 5:51 AM
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