FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Joseph Michael Hester apologized in Forsyth Superior Court for molesting one of the students he said he was duty-bound to teach, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
“I was a teacher and I was given a call and a responsibility to … teach my students,” said Hester, a former science teacher at Glenn High School. “I willfully disregarded that duty.”
Hester, 25, of Witherow Road, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of attempted first-degree sex offense, four counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor and one count of taking indecent liberties with a student.
The charges involve a 15-year-old girl at Glenn.
Judge Richard Stone of Forsyth Superior Court consolidated the charges, per plea arrangement, and sentenced Hester to seven years and 10 months to 14 years and five months in prison. Stone ordered Hester to register as a sex offender for a period of 30 years once he is released from prison.
The Winston-Salem Police Department began investigating Hester on May 1, 2013 after Brad Craddock, the principal at Glenn, contacted the school resource officer, Assistant District Attorney Kia Chavious said in court.
A teacher contacted Craddock after hearing about the allegations from a friend of the girl that Hester was alleged to have sexually abused. The Winston-Salem Journal typically does not identify the alleged victims of sexual abuse or assault or their families.
The friend, Chavious said, had text messages from the girl about the inappropriate relationship with Hester. The victim told authorities that she had been in one of Hester’s classes and in 2013, she had begun helping Hester afterschool with projects and preparing presentations, Chavious said. She helped Hester to help complete community service hours required for another class, Chavious said.
Then, Hester began kissing first on the cheek and later on the mouth, she said. Hester also fondled the girl’s breasts and genitals, Chavious said. In one instance, Hester communicated with the girl via Skype and masturbated in front of her, Chavious said.
David Freedman, Hester’s attorney, said that Hester was once the pride of his community and had graduated with a master’s degree from Wake Forest University. He was a first-year teacher at Glenn.
Hester was remorseful about his conduct and immediately took full responsibility for it, including giving a statement to authorities, Freedman said.
About 12 people, including his parents and his wife, came to support Hester in court.
The victim’s mother also was in court. She didn’t speak, but Chavious said the mother wanted Stone to know that Hester’s actions were devastating to her daughter and to her. Chavious said the girl withdrew from her friends and her extracurricular activities and had to get therapy.
She said the mother was especially devastated because Hester had been such a good teacher to her daughter.
Hester was suspended with a recommendation for dismissal on May 1, 2013. He never returned to the classroom and he was dismissed from the school system on May 16, 2013.