Crime

Judge finds convicted coach, teacher poses ‘special danger’ to community

Attorney Jim Davis and client Leslie DeWitt receive a jury’s verdict in Hancock County Circuit Court, where she was found guilty of twice touching a 16-year-old student for lustful purposes. DeWitt, sentenced to 30 years in prison, plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court for a new trial.
Attorney Jim Davis and client Leslie DeWitt receive a jury’s verdict in Hancock County Circuit Court, where she was found guilty of twice touching a 16-year-old student for lustful purposes. DeWitt, sentenced to 30 years in prison, plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court for a new trial. ttisbell@sunherald.com File

Circuit Court Judge Larry Bourgeios has decided against releasing former Hancock High teacher and coach Leslie DeWitt from jail while she appeals her conviction on two charges of molesting a female student, finding she poses a “special danger” to potential victims in the community.

DeWitt wanted to be released while she appeals to the state Supreme Court for a new trial after a jury found her guilty on two counts of unlawfully touching a child for lustful purposes. Bourgeios had sentenced her to 30 years in prison.

“As the testimony at trial established, the defendant groomed the victim for approximately two years as her coach prior to engaging in sexual activity,” Bourgeois wrote in an order issued Tuesday.

Her attorney, Jim Davis of Gulfport, said he will file an emergency appeal of the judge’s decision denying bond with the state Supreme Court .

“This falls in line with all the other previous rulings he’s made,” Davis said. “I just don’t understand why he has such a hate for this woman. It’s something I can’t grasp.”

Davis had hoped DeWitt would be released to await her appeal. He said he thinks he has solid grounds for the state Supreme Court appeal for a new trial, including that one of the jurors had not lived in Hancock County long enough to serve.

“She does know we have good appeal issues,” he said, “but, on the other side, I think she has been very emotionally disturbed about the sentence she has received.”

At 16, the student had reached the age of consent, Davis said, but DeWitt was convicted because she served in a position of trust as a teacher and assistant coach of the girls basketball team, on which the student played. The jury found DeWitt molested the teenager twice during the 2009-10 school year.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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