Judge denies motion to sever counts in ex-teacher's case

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By Kelly Cantrall

Steven Gray will face just one trial for the charges of alleged sexual abuse that have been brought against him.

Hardin Circuit Judge Kelly Mark Easton is denying the motion to sever the two counts of sexual abuse against Gray, a former Central Hardin High School teacher accused of having sexual encounters with two of his students. The defense filed the motion in hopes of trying the two counts separately.

Easton is expected to enter a written explanation Monday, but planned to inform the attorneys of his decision before then, he said in an email.

Prosecution and defense attorneys met Tuesday to consider the defense’s motion. The defense argued that the circumstances surrounding the charges are different enough to warrant two trials, and trying them together would prejudice the jury against Gray solely because he’s been charged with the same crime twice.

The attorneys said the two counts involve different circumstances, witnesses and locations.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Heather Paynter argued that the counts are similar because both instances followed the same pattern of alleged flirtation that advanced to more intimate activities, including sexual intercourse with the first alleged victim.

Paynter said Tuesday the only reasons that the interactions with the second alleged victim did not escalate to the same degree were that she allegedly refused further advances from Gray, and that he was arrested soon afterward.

The first girl told police she engaged in sexual intercourse with Gray multiple times between September 2009 and February 2010 at his residence, according to the warrant. She also said she was given alcohol.

She claims she and Gray had sex seven times while Gray alleges it was two or three times. She also has said she pursued Gray and initiated flirting and phone communications.

An alleged encounter with a second girl occurred Nov. 19, 2010, at a Glendale park. She told police the encounter involved kissing and sexual touching while Gray has said the two only kissed, according to the motion.

All involved will meet Monday when Easton will consider the defense’s motion for a change of venue.

Gray was fired last November after Hardin County Schools received an anonymous phone call regarding the allegations. He was arrested by Kentucky State Police in December.

There are no allegations of sexual contact by forcible compulsion. The victims were minors at the time of the alleged encounters but were of the age of consent in Kentucky. A Kentucky Revised Statute allows for an adult in a position of authority to be charged with sex crimes even when the alleged victim is above the age of consent.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.