Amid accusations of an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old girls' basketball player, a Jay High School teacher and coach tendered his resignation from the school district on Friday. That same day, he was arrested and charged lewd molestation in Delaware County. One interesting aspect of this case, and one that should serve as a warning to anyone who works with minors, is that the accuser in this case actually denies a sexual relationship between the two. She allegedly admitted only to kissing the coach, but not to any further sexual activity. Despite the absence of allegations of sex between the coach and player, former Jay Public Schools teacher and basketball coach Cory Lyndon Henton, 38, is charged with two counts of lewd molestation involving the teen. Reports say that rumors of favoritism and unusual closeness between the coach and player began swirling, and that those rumors came to a head after Spring Break, when the girl's teammates told school officials that she had spent time in the coach's hotel room during a basketball trip to Oklahoma City. The girl allegedly admitted to investigators that she had gone to the coach's room, where the two talked and kissed. Investigators say she told them that she returned to her own room, but when her roommates fell asleep, she returned to her coach. Jay Public Schools officials suspended the coach pending an investigation, but before the school board could consider the man's employment status, he resigned. Although there are no allegations beyond kissing, the age of consent in Oklahoma is 16. No one younger than 16 may legally consent to sex or other physical sexual contact with an adult over 18. Because of this, and because state law forbids sexual activity between students and school district employees, the coach is charged with two counts of lewd molestation. Lewd molestation, or lewd or indecent proposals or acts to a child under 16, is a broad statute that covers a range of acts involving minors--including even "looking upon" a child in a "lewd or lascivious manner." This allows criminal charges for acts that fall short of stereotypical child molestation--as alleged in this case, a 15-year-old girl willingly kissing an adult. Because of statutory prohibition of intimate relationships between students and teachers, even if the girl involved had been aged 16 or older, the allegations likely would have still led to a criminal charge of sexual battery:
"'Sexual battery shall mean the intentional touching, mauling or feeling of the body or private parts of any person sixteen (16) years of age or older, in a lewd and lascivious manner . . . When committed upon a person who is at least sixteen (16) years of age and is less than twenty (20) years of age and is a student, or in the legal custody or supervision of any public or private elementary or secondary school, or technology center school, by a person who is eighteen (18) years of age or older and is an employee of the same school system that the victim attends" (21 O.S § 1123).Misconstrued relationships, false allegations, and blurred lines can all lead to sex crime charges in Oklahoma. Finding a qualified sex crime defense lawyer is critical to fighting the charges.