GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - A former Gwinnett teacher is headed to prison after he pleaded guilty to having sex with at least four of his students Thursday morning.
Villie Jones, 45, the former band director at South Gwinnett High School, was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 20 years on probation. Jones has admitted to having ongoing sexual encounters with 15-, 16- and 17-year-old girls, many of which happened on campus beginning in 2014.
Channel 2 Action News first reported on Jones when he was arrested in 2017. He was initially charged with with 21 charges of sexual assault by a person with supervisory or disciplinary authority.
Channel 2's Tony Thomas was in the courtroom when Jones plead guilty in a plea deal. He could have faced 500 years in prison if given the maximum sentence on the 21 counts.
Jones plead guilty, but not without arguing to the judge the sentence is unfair. He claims the relationships with the girls were consensual and initiated by them.
"I personally did not initiate but at the same time, going through everything I was going through I had a poor lapse of judgment," Jones said.
Jones has maintained that he did not hurt anyone. His lawyer, Don Geary, insisted that what Jones did was not rape.
"We are not here to tell you nothing happened," Gary said. "This is not him hurting students or forcing somebody."
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The judge didn't buy the argument that the girls initiated the relationships.
"You're not telling me these 15- and 16-year-olds overcame his will to resist, are you? I mean, that strikes me as a bit of a fantasy world," the judge said.
None of Jones' victims nor their families were in court. However, the trial took a dramatic turn after a family member of Jones', who had been emotional during the hearing, appeared to pass out as Jones' was led from the courtroom.
She remained on the floor for several minutes, apparently overcome by the moment. Paramedics were called but the woman recovered.
In addition to prison time and probation, Jones must register as a sex offender and do 1,000 hours of community service.
Prosecutor Matt Acuff said there was a message behind the plea deal.
"The sentence should be a loud voice if you engage with sex with your students, you will go to prison." Acuff said. "The education system that we've created for ourselves places a tremendous amount of trust in teachers specifically."
Jones issued an apology to the families before being taken to prison.
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