Former Columbia County substitute teacher Billy Cleveland learned his sentence in court this morning.
News 12 was in the courtroom when the decision came down.
Prosecutors dropped the 8 counts of child molestation...and Cleveland pled guilty to three counts of simple battery, a misdemeanor. The courtroom was packed with his supporters.
It was a day of celebration for former substitute teacher Billy Cleveland and the crowd who came to support him. He has been in and out of court for almost a year, facing 8 counts of child molestation while teaching at Riverside and Brookwood Elementary. But this is the real story according to Cleveland's attorney, J. Tom Morgan:
"There was a young girl standing on a chair. He popped her on the butt and said sit down. That somehow amounted to a count of child molestation."
He says that, and several of the other charges, could amount to simple misdemeanor battery, which means any type of unwanted touching.
Assistant District Attorney Ashley Wright told Judge William Fleming a guilty plea to three counts of battery is fair.
"The state believes this is a good resolution. We believe that we would have some problems with proof. However, we believe that based on the totality of the circumstances there was a possibility, a probability that the defendant would be convicted of something on trial," Wright said.
Judge Fleming agreed to the deal, and Cleveland agreed not to teach anymore.
And now, the family celebrates, and Cleveland leaves the court free of felony charges.
Billy Cleveland will be on probation for two years. He agreed to give up teaching and pay over $2000 in fines.
Investigators were looking into this case for most of the summer of 2005. In early August, Cleveland was indicted, and he turned himself in. School administrators were also implicated for failing to report the problems.
Then at the end of August, more charges were added to Cleveland's indictment.
The trial was postponed several times before Cleveland announced the plea deal in court in April.