No charges after Harlem teacher-student sex allegation

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 3:47 PM
Last updated Thursday, March 29, 2012 1:34 AM
  • Follow Crime & courts

Despite written admissions that a Harlem High School student had sex with a man who was then a teacher at her school, the Thomson Police Department will not pursue charges in the case.

Sivas  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Sivas

Instead, any prosecution would be left up to Columbia County authorities, who counter that they have no standing to bring charges because the sexual activity took place at the teacher’s Thomson home.

Mitchell Sivas, 57, the Harlem senior Junior ROTC instructor who resigned after the relationship with the 17-year-old student came to light, apparently will not be charged even though state law specifies that sex between a student and a teacher at the same school constitutes sexual assault.

Thomson police Capt. Jamie Bridges said his agency is deferring any prosecution to Columbia County.

“Basically, if we don’t have a victim or a complainant, we don’t have a case,” he said.

Bridges said that in their initial investigation, in which officers found the student at Sivas’ Michael Street home March 3, both denied any sexual activity while professing “strong feelings” for each other.

Since then, Thomson Police have received written admissions from the student that sex took place, said Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.

“They have two statements,” Morris said, “one that was written at the school that was supplied to them, and another that (the student) wrote for her dad and signed, that they’re in possession of, where she admits having sexual intercourse with him on more than one occasion.

“I furnished them with the school statement, and the father hand-delivered the typed and signed statement. For whatever reason, I guess they’re not going to pursue it.”

The father has since said he doesn’t want the case prosecuted “because he doesn’t want to drag her through the mud,” Morris said, though a parent in such a case would not have the authority to decide whether charges are brought.

Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders said none of that information has been forwarded to him.

“If I get a file, I’m going to look at it just like any other case,” Sanders said. “They (Thomson police) haven’t sent me a file.”

The only contact he’s had with police about the case, he said, was a consultation immediately after officers interviewed Sivas and the student at Sivas’ home.

“(They) met with me and said they went out to the scene and there was a denial of any inappropriate activity. If a case is made, it’s not up to the DA to make a case,” Sanders said, adding that subsequent allegations of inappropriate conduct are hearsay.

Georgia law specifies that sexual assault occurs when “a teacher, principal, assistant principal or other administrator of any school engages in sexual contact with such other individual who the actor knew or should have known is enrolled at the same school.”

Under a change in the law made last year, in response to a similar case at Harlem High School that was overturned by the state Supreme Court, the victim’s consent “shall not
be used as a defense to a prosecution.”

That means that even though the student is older than the legal age of consent, any sex between her and the teacher would be illegal – and if that activity had taken place in Columbia County rather than Thomson, Sivas would be charged, Morris said.

“It’s frustrating,” he said.

Anyone convicted under the law is subject to one to 25 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000, or both, with harsher penalties for younger victims.

“There really is nowhere else to go with it,” Morris said. “It’s the end for us.”

Sivas had been Harlem High’s senior Junior ROTC instructor since he was hired in 2011, after previously serving as a Junior ROTC instructor at Grady High School in Atlanta.

According to the Harlem High School Junior ROTC Web site, Sivas is a 26-year veteran who served in Airborne, Air Assault and Special Operations units and “served several combat assignments with Special Forces.”

Comments (30) Add comment
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rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 03/28/12 - 07:54 pm
2
11
What and with who in the

What and with who in the privacy of one's own home is no one else's business.

Riverman1
83642
Points
Riverman1 03/28/12 - 08:16 pm
5
1
He clearly violated Georgia

He clearly violated Georgia state law. I don't care what county it was in.

ForeverFrog
1
Points
ForeverFrog 03/28/12 - 08:33 pm
2
2
What RM said.

What RM said.

Riverman1
83642
Points
Riverman1 03/28/12 - 08:52 pm
6
0
Teachers have such a

Teachers have such a psychological, dominating, power hold on highschool students, especially those in ROTC classes. I'm a vet in every sense of the word and this guy just stinks.

Longtime CSRA resident
1
Points
Longtime CSRA resident 03/28/12 - 09:13 pm
4
0
Come on Thomson police

Come on Thomson police department - give the statements to the DA !

curly123053
4638
Points
curly123053 03/28/12 - 09:44 pm
3
1
Right is right and wrong is

Right is right and wrong is wrong! Thomson Police have to abide by the Ga State Law in my opinion. There's no but's and if's about it. Just shows how smalltown police like to take the easy way out of cases.

Haki
31
Points
Haki 03/28/12 - 10:52 pm
6
1
This is an outrage. @fat,

This is an outrage. @fat, your humor is stale and tacky.

fatboyhog
1940
Points
fatboyhog 03/28/12 - 11:23 pm
1
6
Humor? I'm being serious.

Humor? I'm being serious.

fatboyhog
1940
Points
fatboyhog 03/28/12 - 11:24 pm
1
2
.

.

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 03/28/12 - 11:36 pm
1
2
Shouldn't there be a city of

Shouldn't there be a city of Thomson resident complainant before the Thomson police bring charges? There being no complainant, it is entirely reasonable that no charges be brought.

seenitB4
86829
Points
seenitB4 03/29/12 - 04:15 am
0
3
Yes ..this was wrong in every

Yes ..this was wrong in every sense of the word...yes he does have a powerful position over the young minds.....
BUT she also has power over his emotions.....I have seen this many times.....a mind is weak at times....the allure of "certain" pleasures in life has been known to bring down mighty men.....I don't think I have to detail them on here...
Samson....B Clinton...Jefferson....etc.

Sometimes some of the posts make me smile..:)

avidreader
3189
Points
avidreader 03/29/12 - 05:40 am
1
0
This girl may be within the

This girl may be within the boundaries of legal consent, but the father is still the sole provider and caretaker. Sivas is one sick guy who preyed upon a child within the confines of a school. The admitted-to sex may have taken place elsewhere, but the first seed was planted in the mind, in the school. The student needs to be evaluated by a professional, and Sivas needs to do some hard time. This girl's father deserves to be angry and vengeful. I cannot even imagine his pain.

Ole School
0
Points
Ole School 03/29/12 - 06:45 am
2
1
COME ON THOMSON CHIEF this is

COME ON THOMSON CHIEF this is not just another ticket ! don`t let it fall to the side ....... as certain " tickets " have

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 03/29/12 - 08:10 am
0
1
From the article: Under a

From the article:

Under a change in the law made last year, in response to a similar case at Harlem High School that was overturned by the state Supreme Court, the victim’s consent “shall not be used as a defense to a prosecution.” That means that even though the student is older than the legal age of consent, any sex between her and the teacher would be illegal.

Yeah, and as Charles Dickens wrote, “If the law supposes that, then the law is a ***.”

blues550
376
Points
blues550 03/29/12 - 08:43 am
0
0
Why must we insist on
Unpublished

Why must we insist on requoting an article. Just state your opinion an d move forward.

everybodylies
35
Points
everybodylies 03/29/12 - 09:35 am
3
0
LL...... I usually agree with
Unpublished

LL...... I usually agree with some of your post, however; in this case I disagree. The Chief of Thomson has an obligation to protect and serve. Any 17 year old can be easily influenced. This "teacher" should be locked up! Im curious about his past..... I curious if this has happened before (elsewhere). If the Chief of Thomson does not have the knowledge to make a case against this "teacher", he should at least collect the statements (possibly re-interview the persons involved) and send the case to the DA's office for what is called a DA review, meaning the DA's office can weigh the evidence and statements and make a MORE accurate decision. It would not surprise me if there were a few more YOUNGER victims out there somewhere involving this "teacher".

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 03/29/12 - 09:53 am
0
1
The 17-year-old girl does not

The 17-year-old girl does not wish to press charges. The girl's father does not wish to press charges. The two contradictory statements would present a difficulty to the prosecution — which one is true, if either? The testimony could get tawdry. The people involved do not have a history of criminal behavior. A trial could be lengthy and costly and the benefits to the citizens of Thomson would be few if any.

There are oh, so many good reasons for the Thomson police department to drop this case.

everybodylies
35
Points
everybodylies 03/29/12 - 09:56 am
3
0
And soooooo many reasons to
Unpublished

And soooooo many reasons to in fact prosecute this case! I will agree to disagree on this one....

twolane
191
Points
twolane 03/29/12 - 01:23 pm
0
0
from reading these commets id
Unpublished

from reading these commets id say that you folks are definitely waaaaaaaaay out of touch with teens these days...this isnt the fifties...well im sure this was going on then too...these kids are more than able to make up their own minds and are fully in control of their actions if not the ones in pursuit of the relationships

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 03/29/12 - 01:33 pm
0
1
I don't know what is going on

I don't know what is going on here. There have been posts to this story that show up on the Discussion page but don't show up on the story page. Here is one from twolane:

from reading these commets id say that you folks are definitely waaaaaaaaay out of touch with teens these days...this isnt the fifties...well im sure this was going on then too...these kids are more than able to make up their own minds and are fully in control of their actions if not the ones in pursuit of the relationships

brad0725
0
Points
brad0725 03/29/12 - 01:42 pm
0
1
If 17 is legal for me in the

If 17 is legal for me in the state of Georgia, why should it be different for any other citizen of Georgia?

Riverman1
83642
Points
Riverman1 03/29/12 - 01:49 pm
1
0
Brad0725, because state law

Brad0725, because state law says it is.

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 03/29/12 - 03:19 pm
1
0
From the article: The father

From the article:

The father has since said he doesn’t want the case prosecuted “because he doesn’t want to drag her through the mud,” Capt. Steve Morris said.

You have to wonder why a 17-year-old girl would become emotionally attached to a 57-year-old man. I am no student of psychology, but I wonder if she might have been emotionally deprived of her father's love since childhood. By all accounts the father is a good man and lives in the home physically, but is he zoned out emotionally? Many men are. Did he provide his daughter the fatherly love a girl needs? These are merely questions and speculations. I have no acquaintance of anyone in this story.

godblessallofus
8
Points
godblessallofus 03/29/12 - 02:22 pm
1
0
"Under a change in the law"

"Under a change in the law" Ok, it's legal for a 17 year old to consent to sex with an adult as long as he/she is not being taught at the same school. And it's clearly legal for a 17 year old to go to jail and is called an ADULT at that age. Well the law was broken at the school under their statute which is located in Harlem Ga., So why isn't Columbia County Sheriffs Office handling the case? The law is confusing. Teenagers know when they can consent to sex with anyone of any age. The female may not have known about the "school laws" & shouldn't be put out in the public like this. They wished not to file charges but a " school law" was broken. So just handle the adult appropriately & keep this young lady & her father out the media.

her father out of the media. No names were called but people know who they are & they'll start telling who they are.

RogueKnight
210
Points
RogueKnight 03/29/12 - 02:25 pm
0
1
Sivas comes from a good

Sivas comes from a good family. There has to be more to this than meets the eye. If the authorities aren't inclined to pursue prosecution in this case, then who are we to throw stones?

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 03/29/12 - 02:53 pm
1
0
What about the message this

What about the message this sends to other teachers and students? This is a completely inappropriate relationship. It's interesting that daddy who was initially pursuing this has now done an about face. I would say the daughter has influenced this decision. There is no contest about who has power over the other. Teachers must be held to a higher standard than this.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 03/29/12 - 02:59 pm
0
0
Also, my intuition tells me

Also, my intuition tells me promises have been made.

Little Lamb
45867
Points
Little Lamb 03/29/12 - 03:15 pm
0
1
I agree that it is an

I agree that it is an inappropriate relationship, Willow. But I believe that it should not be an illegal relationship. It is entirely appropriate for the teacher to be fired by the school system for fraternizing with a student; but he should not lose his civil rights and have a criminal record, as long as the student is above 16 years old.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 03/29/12 - 03:52 pm
1
0
A disgrace to the uniform and

A disgrace to the uniform and to the institution it represents.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 03/29/12 - 04:03 pm
1
0
Just want to acknowledge that

Just want to acknowledge that all the information revealed with regard to this story could be used as a template for predators who are trying to prey on minors and skirt the law. This incident may be beyond the reaches of the law b/c either the appropriate laws don't exist or the DA will not be provided enough evidence to prosecute. So, rewrite some laws or create some so that going forward, we don't see crimes occur w/ nobody to pay for them.

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