Originally created 04/25/06

No jail is part of deal

Billy Fray Cleveland, a former Columbia County substitute teacher charged in August with child molestation, reached a plea agreement Monday with the District Attorney's Office that included three misdemeanor counts of simple battery and no jail time.

The agreement still requires the approval of Superior Court Chief Judge William M. Fleming Jr., but if it is approved it would require only probation for the offenses. A simple-battery charge carries a maximum penalty of one year incarceration for each count.

"This cannot be child molestation because child molestation requires an intent to do it for sexual desires," said J. Tom Morgan, the attorney for Mr. Cleveland.

Simple battery, as defined by the Official Code of Georgia, involves intentional physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with another person or intentionally causing harm to another.

"There's (still) a risk of going to trial," Mr. Morgan said of the possibility that Judge Fleming could decide not to approve the proposed plea agreement. "It (the plea agreement) is a tough pill for him (Mr. Cleveland) to swallow because at the same time, he said, 'If I am guilty of this, so are a lot of other teachers.'"

Mr. Cleveland, 68, of Augusta, was indicted on eight counts of child molestation in August. He was arrested Aug. 1 and later released on bond after being accused of inappropriately touching eight girls younger than 16 between May 3 and May 17 while he worked as a substitute teacher at Brookwood and Riverside elementary schools.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Troiano is assisting in the case while Ashley Wright, the case prosecutor, is ill. He said Mr. Cleveland's trial, which had been scheduled to begin this morning, has been canceled pending the agreement's approval.

"The jury has been called off. It is as official as it can get without being official," Mr. Trojano said.

Reach Valerie Rowell at 868-1222, ext. 110, or valerie.rowell@augustachronicle.com.


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