A former high school shop teacher accused of touching a female student in a sexual manner pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in Washington County Criminal Court on Tuesday instead of having his case retried.
Estel Lynn Kiser, 64, of Elizabethton, told Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood he didn’t want to put his wife and family through another trial in the case and said “I’d like to settle this today.”
Kiser ultimately entered a “best interest” plea under judicial diversion to contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Kiser was charged with sexual battery in the incident from Dec. 9, 2010, that allegedly happened near the end of his shop class. A female student accused Kiser of putting his hand up her shirt and under her bra.
He went to trial on the charge in November, and the case ended in a hung jury after the panel told the judge they could not reach a unanimous verdict.
Kiser’s case was set for a status hearing for state prosecutors to announce if they would try the case again, which they did plan to do.
Defense attorney Matt Bolton told Blackwood he had filed a motion to withdraw as Kiser’s lawyer because Kiser wanted to hire someone else. When Blackwood asked Kiser if that was what he wanted to do, the former teacher said he wanted to take the plea he was previously offered.
After discussions outside the courtroom between Kiser, Bolton and prosecutors, Kiser entered the “best interest” plea. He was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in jail, but that was suspended on diversion.
If Kiser has no other arrests and follows all the rules of probation, the conviction will be removed from his record.
The case boiled down to a he-said, she-said situation since there were no eyewitnesses to the alleged incident. Kiser was a plumbing instructor in the vocational program at Daniel Boone High School for nearly 10 years when he was suspended and ultimately left the school system over the allegation.
Kiser testified during his November trial that on the day in question, his students were working on a pipe-cutting project. After the alleged victim finished her turn sawing the pipe, she followed him into a storage area where he’d gone to get a tissue for himself. The girl was proud of her accomplishment and told Kiser he should frame her piece of pipe, but Kiser said he didn’t respond to that comment.
Then the girl asked him to feel her pulse because her “heart was racing,” he testified. Kiser said he felt the girl’s wrist and neck, but that was the only physical contact he had with her. Right after that, the girl asked to leave class early and he said she could. Kiser said the girl thanked him
and did not appear in any distress.
When the girl left, she told a classmate that Kiser had put his hand under her bra and the friend encouraged her to report it, according to testimony. The two went to the office and told school administrators the girl’s version of the events. Kiser was suspended that day and later retired.