A former South Gwinnett High School band director pleaded guilty Thursday morning to sexually abusing four students in less than three years on the job.
Villie Jones, 45, pleaded to 20 charges of sexual assault by a person with supervisory or disciplinary authority.
Jones admitted that he had ongoing sexual relationships with four students at South Gwinnett. An indictment shows the abuse began in November 2014 — three months after he began working at the school — and ended in April 2017. One of the students was under the age of 16; the remaining three ranged in age from 16 to 18.
Jones was sentenced to 30 years, with 10 years to serve in prison and 20 years on probation.
He entered an Alford plea to one charge of child molestation, meaning he did not admit guilt but acknowledged there was evidence that could convict him in a trial.
None of Jones’ four victims were present for the hearing. His brother and stepmother sat alone in the court gallery, his stepmother audibly crying and praying throughout the proceedings. She fell to the ground as Jones was being led out of the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies.
Jones was initially arrested in May 2017, charged with four counts of sexual assault. He resigned from his position at South Gwinnett High School shortly before his arrest. A July 2017 indictment brought the charge count to 21.
Most of the sexual contact with students occurred on campus: in the band room, a uniform room, a bathroom and Jones’ office, the 2017 indictment said. Jones also picked up one student from her home and from a gas station in order to have sexual contact with her, the indictment said.
Jones also had a sexual relationship with a student when he taught at a school in North Carolina, Gwinnett County Assistant District Attorney Matt Acuff said in a February hearing. That relationship, which began when the student was a sophomore in high school, continued past her graduation and resulted in a child born when the she was 21, Acuff said at the hearing. Jones’ sister said at that hearing she knew the child’s mother was Jones’ student when the relationship began.
During Thursday’s plea hearing, Acuff called Jones’ actions “heinous, cowardly and rampant.”
“Taking advantage of 15, 16, 17-year-old females you have some sort of supervisory or disciplinary authority over causes a great amount of damage whether it is consensual or not,” Acuff said.
Jones and his attorney argued that while he was pleading guilty to sexual assault, all of the sexual contact he had with students was consensual.
“This is not him hunting students and forcing somebody,” said Don Geary, Jones’ attorney. “There was no coercion, there was no force, it was mutual, if not, some of them, initiated by the students.”
Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Warren Davis was skeptical of that assertion.
“You’re not telling me these 15 and 16-year-olds overcame his will to resist them. This seems like some kind of fantasy world,” Davis said.
A federal lawsuit was filed by one of his victims in July, alleging Gwinnett County Public Schools and South Gwinnett High School administrators ignored reports of Jones sexually abusing students and should have known about the North Carolina relationship. Jones was never charged with any crime before his May 2017 arrest and passed the required background check to be hired by Gwinnett County Public Schools.
The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.
charged with sexually assaulting students in May 2017.
Michael Henderson, a former Georgia Bulldogs football player, admitted to police that he had a sexual relationship with a female student while he was her teacher at Parkview High School. He pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault in February and was sentenced to five years in prison and 15 years on probation.
Derren Evans, a long-term substitute teacher at Providence Christian Academy, was accused of repeatedly groping and forcibly kissing a student who he also asked to send nude photos over Snapchat.
Ronnie Jackson, a coach and physical education teacher at Meadowcreek High School, was charged with sexual assault after allegedly molesting a female athlete while purporting to help her stretch an injured groin muscle.
The cases of Jones and Henderson, who have been sentenced to prison time for their abuse of students, are not the norm in Georgia.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found that it is rare for teachers who have sex with students to serve prison time. In some cases, prosecution is not possible because the law that bans teachers from having sex with students specifies the teacher must have “supervisory or disciplinary authority.” Court cases have established that every teacher in a school doesn’t have authority over every student. Jones’ and Henderson’s victims were students in their classes, giving them that authority.
Acuff said he hoped Jones’ prison sentence would “say with a loud voice that if you have sexual contact with your students you will go to prison.”
The maximum sentence Jones could have received was 520 years, with a 20-year maximum for the child molestation charge and a 25-year maximum for each sexual assault charge. He also must register as a sex offender and pay a $4,000 fine — $1,000 for each victim.
Staff writer Ty Tagami contributed to this story.
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