An Ellis County jury has found former Waxahachie High School assistant coach and teacher Chris Cameron not guilty on all three counts of improper relationship between an educator and a student.
The relationship allegedly occurred in the spring semester 2009.
The eight-female, four-male panel returned its verdict Friday morning in 40th District Court, Judge Bob Carroll presiding. Testimony in the case began Wednesday, with the matter going to the jury Thursday afternoon. The jurors resumed their deliberations Friday morning, totaling about four hours in all before reaching a decision.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Jim Jenkins told jurors they could not convict if they didn’t believe the evidence proved a sexual relationship beyond a reasonable doubt. He also noted that the prosecutors’ indictment had alleged sexual intercourse between Cameron and the 18-year-old on three dates. Two of those dates, he noted, were before the girl herself testified any intercourse occurred, he said.
In his argument, Jenkins described the 18-year-old as a “troubled kid who wants to be accepted. … Here’s a coach, a good looking coach.”
Of her testimony, Jenkins argued that the 18-year-old had changed her story as time went on to include that a sexual relationship had occurred.
“Why didn’t she tell this story the first time?” he asked jurors, saying, “Even if you don’t like him, unless you believe the material elements, you have to vote not guilty.”
In their closing, the visiting prosecutors – who were from the state Attorney General’s Office in Austin – said state law allows the phrase “on or about” and that the only issue to be proved was that at least three acts of sexual intercourse occurred prior to Cameron’s being indicted by an Ellis County grand jury.
The prosecutors asked the jurors, “Why would (the 18-year-old) subject herself to this (public trial and testimony)? It’s humiliating to have to come in here.”
The law is about protecting students in a school setting, they said, saying it was Cameron who had lied to the jury panel during his testimony.
“If you find him not guilty, you’re looking for a way not to follow the law,” they said. “In order to find him not guilty, you have to believe everyone in this courtroom was lying, including his friends.”
Testifying on his own behalf during the trial, Cameron, 35, who now resides in Longview and is working in the metal building construction business, said he didn’t have an explanation as to why the 18-year-old female student would have said they had an intimate, sexual relationship during the 2009 spring semester.
Cameron said it could be she was threatened she wouldn’t graduate if she didn’t tell school authorities she had had sex with him, with the former educator saying also, “I’m sure she wants attention, that’s evident.”
“Yeah, she looked like she was having a really good time up here testifying,” prosecutors remarked in response.
As part of her testimony, the 18-year-old had said she and Cameron had sex in his coach’s office, in his Ford F150 pickup, at his home while his wife was away and at an apartment where she was staying after being kicked out of her home. She also testified to personal, identifying marks on Cameron – one of an intimate nature he affirmed under questioning from prosecutors. He testified, however, he did not know how she could have known that detail.
The 18-year-old, who testified she spent two nights at Cameron’s home during spring break while his wife was out of town, had provided a rough floor plan of the residence to investigators.
Cameron said the student was never in his home and there were other ways she could have gotten a floor plan, including looking at other homes in his Coventry Lane neighborhood and visiting her friends who lived in that area.
Under questioning from prosecutors, Cameron said he had no explanation as to why several other students would testify they saw text messages of a sexual nature sent by him to the 18-year-old.
One of the students also testified she had given the 18-year-old, who was without a vehicle and living in different places, several rides to meet up with Cameron. Another student testified she saw someone who looked like Cameron leaving an apartment where the 18-year-old was then staying a described a pickup similar to the description of the vehicle he drove.
Other coaches who testified as to their concerns and or his whereabouts at times were either lying or mistaken in what they said, Cameron testified, saying, “I can’t explain to the jury why anyone would lie.”
AG’s office involvement
The state Attorney General’s Office handled the prosecution as former Ellis County and District Attorney Joe Grubbs recused himself and his staff from the case because Cameron was a student in Grubbs’ Sunday school class at the time.
The AG’s office entered telephone records into evidence of more than 5,000 text messages, the bulk of which were sent and received between Cameron’s cell phone and the 18-year-old’s cell phone during a 90-day period from about Jan. 30, 2009, through the end of that April. At that time, testimony indicated Cameron’s wife spoke with her husband and the 18-year-old, telling them any further communication needed to be from her phone.
The telephone records included only the phone numbers involved as none of the actual text messages were captured by the cell phone service providers.
Prosecutors noted that the wife’s cell phone records indicated communication with the 18-year-old continued even after the couple signed documents with the school district that there was to be no contact with any student once the district’s investigation was launched in May.
Of those text messages, more than half originated from Cameron’s phone, prosecutors estimated.
Trial testimony indicated messages would start at about 8 a.m., go back and forth through the day and at times continue until 2 or 3 a.m.
The prosecutors noted another pattern about the text messages, saying to Cameron: “Every day, except for one day, you initiated the texting in the a.m. Every day, you were the first person to text (the 18-year-old). Every day, you were the last person to text (the 18-year-old).”
Cameron’s wife, Kristy, who was a high school counselor at Waxahachie ISD before resigning, has since been hired by former WISD superintendent Dr. James Wilcox as an elementary school counselor in Longview ISD.
She testified that at least half of the text messages were hers from the beginning of their being sent in January. She also testified she had known of every conversation and text message as those happened between her husband and the 18-year-old.
Questioned as to whether she was away from her home during spring break, she testified she was gone only one night and her husband was with another coach until late that same day. She and her husband both said that coach – who had testified he was with Chris Cameron on a different night during spring break – was mistaken as to which night it was.
The couple had the amount of communications and conversations with the 18-year-old that they did because they were concerned about the student and her situation, Kristy Cameron testified, saying they were trying to help and counsel her.
Under questioning from prosecutors, Kristy Cameron acknowledged she did not communicate her and her husband’s concerns about the 18-year-old’s wellbeing to anyone else, including the girl’s designated counselor at the high school.
Kristy Cameron also testified she did not make any report of their counseling efforts nor did she refer the 18-year-old anywhere.
The 18-year-old’s designated counselor testified no concerns were ever reported to her nor was any documentation of counseling with the 18-year-old found after the Camerons resigned.
At this time, the Texas Education Agency has placed Chris Cameron’s teacher certificate on an inactive status. The agency’s website notes that the license expired in June and was not renewed. The website also notes, “This individual is currently under review by the SBEC Professional Discipline Unit.”
Kristy Cameron has a valid status relating to her certification; the TEA website does note her certificate also is under review by the SBEC Professional Discipline Unit.
On Friday, a Texas Education Agency spokesman said that agency’s investigation is separate and “will continue until it’s finished.”
“We normally allow a criminal investigation to proceed first. Our investigations will run parallel,” the spokesman said, saying the agency can’t comment beyond confirming an ongoing investigation.
Chris Cameron has a second case pending in court involving a different student.
In the second case, which involves an allegation stemming to the fall 2008 semester, Cameron was indicted on one count of sexual assault of a child and one count of improper relationship between an educator and a student.
That case has not been set for trial.
Contact JoAnn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 469-517-1452.