Testimony begins in case against teacher

Published 1:53 am Thursday, August 30, 2018

The alleged victim in a case against a former Opp High School teacher testified Wednesday that he had two encounters of a sexual nature with his English teacher and church youth leader during his junior year.

Ashley Nelson Hall was charged in 2015 with one count of a school employee engaging in a sex act with a student under 19. She was put on administrative leave at the time of her arrest in the spring of that year, and was indicted the following December.

The victim testified that Hall and her husband, Josh Hall, were youth leaders in the church he also attended. At a lock-in to ring in the 2014 New Year, he said, he and the defendant hid together in the church basement during a game of hide and seek in the dark.

“We ended up kissing,” the alleged victim said while being questioned by Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter, who is prosecuting the case.

He also testified that he told a friend what had happened, and the friend told Hall’s husband.

“Me and Josh (Hall) ended up having a discussion about it,” he said.

He also testified that within two weeks, Josh Hall picked him up from his house and he joined the couple and their youngest son for supper and a movie. He testified that Josh Hall went and rode the child around to put him to sleep, leaving the alleged victim alone with the defendant.

“We were sitting on the couch together, talking,” he said. “We ended up kissing again.”

He said the two of them went into Mrs. Hall’s son’s bedroom, and that she performed fellatio. The alleged victim said that Josh Hall returned home and found him and Ashley Hall together.

He testified that he asked Josh Hall to take him home. The ride was quiet, he said, adding that the two of them talked about that the couple should not repeat the behavior, and the alleged victim said that he told Josh Hall he regretted the action.

Over objections from defense attorney Riley Powell,

the victim also testified that a similar incident occurred the next night.

Powell argued that Mrs. Hall was only charged with one count of engaging in a sex act with a student, and that the prosecution should focus on proving one encounter. After a short recess to review case law, Judge Lex Short allowed the additional testimony into evidence.

The alleged victim testified that Josh Hall again picked him up and took him to the Halls’ home. He testified that the Mrs. Hall appeared wearing only lingerie, and that he walked with the Halls into a bedroom, where he said Mrs. Hall again performed fellatio. He said that Josh Hall watched parts of the encounter from the doorway.

He was again driven home by Josh Hall, the alleged victim said, and they again discussed that “it shouldn’t have happened.” He described the ride as “awkward.”

The victim said he told two of his friends, but didn’t talk to police until his senior year, when investigators sought him out. When asked on cross examination from Powell why he didn’t talk to the police before then, he said, “I guess I was ashamed of it.”

The alleged victim also told the defense attorney that the initial interaction of kissing in the church was not initiated by either of them, but was “mutual.”

The alleged victim said he and others continued to go to the Halls’ house for youth events after the alleged incidences, and that her family helped him financially.

Under questioning from the defense, the alleged victim said he was almost 17 at the time of the encounters, and that he played football on both the offensive and defensive lines, and played center on the OHS basketball team. He told the defense attorney there were no photos or videos of his encounters.

The jury also heard testimony from Rhonda Martin about a conversation she and fellow teacher Denise Pierce had with one of the victim’s friends. Martin testified that when the student began his story, she stopped him and called the second teacher to the room.

“At that time, I was not willing to continue the conversation without another educator present,” she said. After the conversation, she said, Assistant Superintendent Emily Edgar was contacted, and the three met after school to discuss the allegations made by the alleged victim’s friend.

Testimony was expected to resume Thursday morning.