by: Liz Artz, Audrey Washington Updated:
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A paraprofessional and coach charged with sexual assault is talking for the first time, exclusively to Channel 2 Action News.
Darrell Lake’s attorney, Jackie Patterson, told Channel 2’s Liz Artz that he did not engage in inappropriate behavior with the student, but he said even if Lake did, he still did not break the law.
Artz found two other cases on Monday that show he might be right.
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Lake told Artz he was as surprised as anyone to find a half-naked student in his classroom.
According to a police report Artz obtained through an open records request, the assistant principal at Cedar Grove High School walked into Lake's classroom and witnessed an 18-year-old student with her pants down, bent over his desk.
“Nudity by ambush,” Patterson said. “He had no idea when he turned around this young lady had her pants down."
Lake was arrested and charged with sexual assault against a person in custody.
"A paraprofessional is not the same thing as a teacher and Georgia specifically distinguishes the two,” Patterson said.
Lake maintains prior to the incident on March 6, his relationship with the student was strictly professional, but Patterson told Artz since Lake is a paraprofessional, it wouldn't make a difference.
"Even if he had sex with a student on campus or at home or anywhere else, he is not guilty of crime. Paraprofessionals do not apply," Patterson said.
Patterson said the law only applies to teachers, administrators and principals.
He told Artz he got Travis Hart exonerated of the same charge in 2013.
Also, in November, Artz reported the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the conviction of former high school coach Robert Morrow, who had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student.
Patterson is confident this case won’t make it that far.
"It's an embarrassment to me, you know, having my name thrown through the mud,” Lake said.
Lake has a hearing Thursday and his attorney said he expects these charges to be thrown out and his client to be exonerated and back in the classroom at Cedar Grove.
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