The Assistant District Attorney assigned to Montgomery County is speaking out following the conclusion of a recent court case involving a sexual relationship between a high school coach and a 16-year-old student.
Zachary Carr was an assistant football coach and head wrestling coach at West Montgomery High School when he had what was described as “consensual” sexual relationship with the student. A 2013 release from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said the relationship involved sexual activity on and off campus through the course of the 2012 football season.
The disposition of Carr’s case came Wed., Jun. 25, as the result of a plea agreement in which he claimed neither guilt nor innocence, but accepted a guilty verdict on one count of sexual battery, with a prayer for judgment continued.
The verdict resulted in neither jail time nor probation, and Carr does not have to register as a sex offender. A source told WMTG that the girl with whom Carr had the relationship did not cooperate in his prosecution.
Assistant District Attorney Darren Allen told WMTG that an active prison sentence was never an option in Carr’s case because North Carolina General Statutes (§ 14-202.4) define the charge of Indecent Liberties with a Student as a Class I felony. Allen says the designation means “people with no prior felony sentencing points cannot get any jail time at all.”
“They can only get what is referred to as ‘community punishment’ — probation with no split sentence,” Allen said.
An Jun. 27 article on WMTG also mentioned previous student sex cases involving former West Middle coach James Knight, former Montgomery Learning Academy principal John Ward and former West Montgomery coach Shawn Day.
Parallels to the Day case drew criticism from both Allen – who prosecuted the Carr, Knight and Ward cases – and defense attorney Butch Jenkins of Biscoe, who represented both Carr and Ward.
“The feds can pick and choose their cases,” said Allen. “They don’t have to prosecute all offenses, so they generally only choose cases where the evidence is strong and when the victim is cooperative.”
Allen also said the presence of text message evidence and a cooperative witness led U.S. Attorney Ripley Rand to assume jurisdiction of the Day case, where the defendant was subject to a “more severe punishment system in federal court.”
Jenkins said the cases on which he worked “were totally different from the federal (Day) case in that (the) alleged victims (of Carr and Ward) were not underage.”
“Had they not been school employees, the alleged behavior would have been perfectly legal,” said Jenkins, whose remarks were posted Friday on Facebook.
Prosecutor Allen said, “As much as I agree with the general sentiment that these defendants should be punished more harshly, Raleigh never gave us ‘jail time’ as an option for Ward, Knight or Carr.”