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Friday, May 6, 2016

ICC teacher found guilty

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Brock M. Felton, 33, of Sage, a former Izard County Consolidated School band and choir teacher and a school bus driver, was convicted of a total of 16 counts of sexual crimes on Jan. 9. Four of those crimes are sexual assault in the second degree and 12 are sexual indecency convictions. The trial began Jan. 5 and lasted until Jan. 10.

In the 2007-2008 school year, Felton allegedly exposed himself to male students and encouraged some male students to expose themselves at school. Felton also allegedly touched some of the boys' penises both through and without clothing.

Victims testify

During the trial, witnesses gave testimony that Felton prodded the victims' groin areas with either the tips of his fingers or with a conductor's baton. Other victims gave testimony that Felton told them various ways to masturbate, one way included using a vacuum. At other times, victims said male students were in Felton's office with either their shirts off or their pants down. Some victims also testified that Felton asked them if they had any pubic hairs.

All the male students were between the ages of 14 and 18 at the time they were victimized. There were at least 13 male students from ICC who gave their testimony on the witness stand.

Felton's conduct

Many male students testified that they considered Felton to be a trustworthy friend who didn't act like a teacher. "He was my friend," one of the students testified. "He told me one time he'd do anything for me and I told him I'd do the same for him."

Another student testified, "(Felton) acted like the rest of us, not like a teacher. We pretty much had free reign in his class."

These students also gave testimony that Felton would make sexual jokes at first and as the school year progressed the sexual comments and questions Felton would ask worsened. The students said Felton asked them when was the last time they had an erection and questions about what they did with their girlfriends. The students said Felton would also give them pornographic Web sites to visit and he would watch pornographic videos with them.

Male students also testified that they were uncomfortable to go to the bathroom or the P.E. locker room when Felton was in there. "I thought he was cool (at first)," one student testified. "Then, it was awkward to be around him. I didn't want to go to the bathroom with him."

He also played a "Do you trust me?" game with the students by placing his hand on a student's knee and asking, "Do you trust me?" Then, he would slowly move his hand up and in the inner thigh towards the groin area. At times, students said Felton actually touched the students' penises through their pants while playing this game.

Students also said Felton would measure the boys' penises in his office either by taping them to a desk or using a broomstick.

According to the students, Felton made these sexual acts seem like they were normal activities to do. "He was nice to us. He made it (sexual acts) seem like it was a normal thing," a male student testified. Other students said Felton told them that college students did similar activities all the time. One student testified that Felton told him not to tell his parents about it because they wouldn't understand because they were from a different generation. Most of the male students on the witness stand said they were afraid to tell anyway because they feared being labeled as homosexual.

School's investigation

One student did end up telling his mother about what was happening in Felton's classroom and office. "I finally realized no normal person could do that (the sexual acts that were happening)," the student testified.

ICC school's investigation into Felton's conduct began in November 2007 when a student who rode Felton's bus came to high school principal, David Harmon, who is also the basketball coach. The student told Harmon that while he was on the bus, Felton had a sexually explicit conversation with him.

Harmon and Superintendent Fred Walker talked with Felton about his conduct. Harmon testified that Felton denied the allegations and said the conversation between him and the student was about music and guitars. Harmon said Felton did mention that he overheard some students talking in the bathroom about their anatomy. Harmon said Felton told him and Walker that he told them that they shouldn't be talking about things like that at school.

Harmon testified that the school felt like there were no witnesses to Felton's conduct so they did not punish him, but the incident was put in Felton's file.

The defense

During the cross examination of State Attorney Don McSpadden's witnesses, Felton's attorney, Gray Dellinger, set up the defense that all of the alleged victims wanted revenge from Felton for kicking a student out of band and having him suspended from school for five days. Dellinger asked many of the students if they felt angry that the student was kicked out of Felton's class and about a MySpace page set up by one of the alleged victims that said he wanted revenge.

Felton and many of the students testified that the student was kicked out of band for sticking a drum stick down his pants and supposedly putting it up his rectum. All of the victims denied that they wanted revenge and agreed that Felton did right in kicking the student out of his class.

One sexual assault charge that Felton was later found not guilty of, involved him masturbating a foreign exchange student that was living with him at the time. Danny Felton, the defendant's father along with the defendant himself testified that Brock Felton's left arm was in a sling and taped to his side at the time the alleged incident happened.

Brock Felton, who is left handed, testified that he and the exchange student were in an altercation which resulted in Brock Felton injuring his shoulder.

Dr. Candence Holt, an expert witness and a friend of the Felton family who is also a chiropractor, confirmed Brock Felton's condition at the time of the alleged incident.

Dr. Holt, Becky Felton, the defendant's wife, and the defendant, testified that the couple had discipline problems with the foreign exchange student. "He wanted to drink and smoke pot," Becky Felton testified. She said the Feltons wouldn't allow it.

Wife and expert witnesses

Becky Felton, who is also a nurse, and expert witnesses Kim Watson, an advanced practice nurse, and Dr. Bethany Knight, the defendant's primary care physician, testified that Brock Felton had difficulties with his libido and having and maintaining erections. Both Watson and Dr. Knight explained that Brock Felton had hypogonadism, a condition where the body does not produce enough testosterone. Mark Herrington of Mark's Pharmacy testified that the defendant was prescribed testosterone shots and later testosterone gel. Watson and Dr. Knight said the prescriptions were to correct Felton's condition. Watson said Brock Felton also had problems with blood pressure and depression.

Dr. Knight testified that the effects of hypogonadism are female pattern weight gain, hair loss, atrophy of the sex organs (sex organs shrink), depression and decreased libido.

The defendant and his wife both testified that Brock Felton hadn't had an erection in four years and that he never thought about sex, which proved Brock Felton couldn't have any sexual gratification from doing anything sexual to the boys.

Though the couple hadn't had sex in four years, "Sex doesn't make a marriage," Becky Felton testified.

Becky Felton also testified that her husband never thinks about sex. "He's only interested in me," she testified.

Both the defendant and his wife testified that the testosterone medication was not working in regard to Brock Felton's sex life but it was helping with the muscle pains and headaches. They testified that the injectable form of the drug was too painful to use so they switched to a topical gel that had to be used on a daily basis. Brock Felton testified that he kept forgetting to put it on. Felton eventually stopped using the medication altogether because it was too much of a hassle, they testified.

Brock Felton also testified that some of the side effects of the medication were also bothersome. He said one of the side effects is a lower voice. Since he is a trained opera singer, he didn't want to lose it. "God gave me this voice and I didn't want to change it," Brock Felton testified.

The couple also testified that a friend gave them an erotic video to watch because it might help their sexual problem. Both said the tape didn't help and they put the tape in their living room with all their other videos and forgot about it. "We tried to be like a husband and wife are supposed to be and couldn't," Brock Felton testified. When the police searched their house during the investigation, the couple testified that they willing gave the tape over.

During cross examination, McSpadden asked Becky Felton if she ever saw Brock Felton do anything inappropriate. "I'm a nurse. If I saw anything, I would be mandated to report it," Becky Felton testified.

Brock Felton's testimony

Brock Felton testified that it was difficult to maintain discipline in his class. He said students would jump on his back and pretend to hump him. He testified that students would also expose themselves to him and he would tell them to stop but nothing seemed to work. The defendant also testified that Harmon and Walker both knew what was happening in his class but they failed to show or give Brock Felton any support.

The jury

The jury then considered all the facts and went into the jury room at about 5 p.m. Jan. 8 to deliberate each of the 21 counts against Brock Felton. The jury continued their deliberations Jan. 9. About 5 p.m. that day, the jury came back with the verdict. They found Brock Felton guilty of 12 counts of sexual indecency and four counts of sexual assault in the second degree.

Victim's statements

Before the jury went in to deliberate on how to sentence Brock Felton, the mothers of a couple of the victims had statements to make to the jury. "(My son) doesn't trust anyone anymore," one mother said. "Let's send a message that Izard County will not tolerate child molesters."

Another mother addressed herself to Brock Felton. "You abused your power as a teacher in the most heinous way," she said. "We are glad the world realizes you for who you are."

Both mothers asked the jury to consider the maximum penalty in jail time for each of the charges, which would have been no more than six years in a correctional facility for each of the sexual indecency charges and five to 20 years for each of the sexual assault charges.

A couple of the victims also had statements for the jury to consider as they decided how to punish the defendant. "He hurt my family and he hurt me," the student said. "He's truely hurt my family and I don't know if I could ever forgive him."

"I wish Brock would admit to what he did," another victim said. "This whole thing's been very hard on me and my family."

"Hopefully, I can one day forgive him but I will never forget the pain he caused," the student said.

Felton's family

Brock Felton's family also pleaded for the jury to have mercy. "Please, just fine him," Brock Felton's mother, Patricia Felton said in almost a whisper as tears rolled down her cheeks. "Don't send him to prison. I don't think Brock would survive in prison. Have mercy."

"He's never been in trouble all his life before this," his wife said. "He's tried to do right. He won't make it in prison."

The collapse

About five minutes after the jury went in to discuss what the defendant's punishment should be, Brock Felton fell unconscious in his chair. Izard County Sheriff Tate Lawrence and Brock Felton's family helped him to the floor and Izard County's Arkansas Emergency Transportation service was called.

As the family and Dellinger and the state attorney were trying to revive Brock Felton, Danny Bradly Felton, the defendant's brother, yelled out, "That's what happens when you convict an innocent man."

After several minutes on the floor, Brock Felton awoke and started moaning. AET arrived on the scene about five minutes after the call was made. Brock Felton was carried down the stairs of the courthouse and sent to the Calico Rock Medical Center.

The sentence

Circuit Court Judge Tim Weaver recalled the jury to the courtroom after Brock Felton and emergency personnel had left the courthouse. Judge Weaver explained to the jury what had happen and whether they would become biased based on the new developments. The members of the jury shook their heads in reply and Judge Weaver adjourned the court until 9 a.m. Jan. 10 when Brock Felton was feeling better and was able to be in the courtroom to hear the sentence.

The jury deliberated until about noon that day on how to sentence Brock Felton. When the jury had decided, they came back to the courtroom and requested the Brock Felton receive rehab. They fined him a total of $180,000 for all of the charges and sentenced him to six months in an Arkansas Department of Corrections facility for one count of sexual indecency.

Danny Felton, Brock Felton's father, who said he was in Vietnam, had tears in his eyes before leaving his son in the courtroom. "The system may not be perfect, but it's what we fought for," Danny Felton said after the sentencing. "I thank everyone who gave us their prayers and support."

"The jury should be commended for their service and their rendition to this community. It is clear that they considered well all of the evidence and listened to both sides of this case, that they took their objective service and that they reached a just verdict," Dellinger, Felton's attorney, said.

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