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Former Shelby County High School teacher Scott Stumbo entered an Alford plea Wednesday in Shelby County District Court on two counts of harassment and one count of distributing obscene material to a minor.
Under an Alford plea, Stumbo, 47, does not admit guilt but acknowledges there could be enough evidence to find him guilty if he went to trial.
The charges stemmed from allegations that he sexually harassed two female students. In addition, one of the girls alleged Stumbo handed her a typed, unsigned note, which contained sexually suggestive language, according to school officials in September 2006.
Under the terms of Stumbo's Alford plea, the two harassment charges were merged with the distributing obscene material charge -- a Class A misdemeanor. Stumbo was sentenced to 180 days probated for 24 months on that charge, which means if he is convicted for any other crime in the next two years, he would serve 180 days in jail.
In a written statement for the press, Stumbo's attorney, Julie House, said her client continues to maintain his innocence against all the charges in this case.
"Scott Stumbo was recently diagnosed with cancer," the statement said. "He was hospitalized and treated from October through Christmas. He has had to undergo extensive medical care and has been close to being overcome by the disease and treatment several times. He will continue to receive chemo therapy and other invasive medical treatment at least once a month over the next two years."
In addition, the statement said, "He feels he can only physically and mentally fight one battle at a time. Right now, he, his physicians and his family believe his concentration needs to be focused on his health and recovery. For that sole reason he has chosen to accept the county's offer and make his Alford plea regarding this case to help him focus on the important things in his life, his family and his continuing health issues."
Friends and supporters of Stumbo said outside the courtroom that they never believed the charges against him.
Jennifer Purnell Hawkins, a Simpsonville resident, said she came to the courthouse Wednesday to support Stumbo and his family during the plea agreement proceeding because she cares very much about their family.
"I one-hundred percent believe Scott Stumbo is innocent," Hawkins said.
She also said she believed the letter presented as evidence in the case must have been written by someone other than Stumbo who may have had access to his computer.
Michelle Isenberg, also a Simpsonville resident, said she also doesn't believe the allegations made by the teen-age girls in the case are true and that news stories about the case have been unfair.
"I have known him for many years," Isenberg said."He coached my daughter in soccer. I would trust him with both of my children."
The mother of the teen-age victim who received the letter said anyone who doesn't believe Stumbo wrote it can get a copy of it as well as the police report through an open records request to Kentucky State Police Post 12 because now that the case has been resolved, the file becomes public record.
"I realize there are still going to be people who love and support this man and I wouldn't take that away from him," she said. "But you can love the leper and not love the disease and not want to be subjected to it. Many good people have believed in this man and been duped. Nobody wants to believe anybody they know could've done this -- especially if they've had him around their children. I didn't want to believe it either."
Shelby County Attorney Hart Megibben said his office doesn't prosecute cases not supported by evidence.
"The defendant has, as permitted under our legal system, pled guilty while maintaining his innocence," Megibben said. "I, as a sworn prosecutor, have an obligation to everyone, the victims, the defendant, as well as the general public, to prosecute only those cases that I believe are supported by sufficient, competent and admissible evidence. Had I agreed with the defendant in this case, I would have been obligated not to pursue the charges. Based on the evidence and information learned through the investigation of this case, I had a duty and obligation to seek a conviction."