Court overturns sexual assault conviction of Cherokee wrestling coach

The Georgia Supreme Court has tossed out the conviction of a former Cherokee County high school wrestling coach and paraprofessional found guilty in the sexual assault of a sophomore cheerleader.

Robert Leslie Morrow was convicted in Feb.2014 under a statute that prohibits teachers, principals and administrators from engaging in sexual conduct with students. In its unanimous decision announced Monday, the court found that, because Morrow was a paraprofessional, the statute didn’t apply to him. Morrow was sentenced to 240 days in detention and 10 years probation.

“Despite the plain language of the statute, the State fought diligently to extend its boundaries,” Morrow’s attorney, Bryan Lumpkin, said Monday. “I always believed that opinion was incorrectly decided, the Court of Appeals indicated its agreement with our position, and the Supreme Court today made very clear that (Morrow) was never in violation of this statute.”

The state had presented evidence that while Morrow had some “general” supervisory position at River Ridge High School he did not meet the specific criteria laid out in Georgia code, the Supreme Court ruled. He had been hired as a paraprofessional to prevent a special needs child from disrupting classes. That’s where Morrow, 27, met the student, 11 years his junior.

The pair began exchanging flirtatious texts and, in Dec. 2010, the cheerleader agreed to meet “Coach Morrow,” as he was known at River Ridge, in a grocery store parking lot. There, she performed oral sex on him. She changed schools a week later but the sexual relationship continued.

Soon after, the student told her favorite teacher, Kristin Lee May, about that relationship. The cheerleader was no longer involved with the wrestling coach but, ironically, May and Morrow had begun an affair. May was arrested under the state’s mandatory reporting law seven months later after the student told police about her involvement with Morrow.

ExploreThat charge was thrown out in a separate ruling by the state Supreme Court, which found that the reporting law requires teachers to report abuse only if they were “attending” the child.