Former North teacher picks prison over probation

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A former North Rowan High School teacher chose prison over probation Wednesday for an inappropriate relationship with a student.
Zachary Paul Greene, now 30, was charged in April 2010 with three counts of felony indecent liberties with a female student at the school. On Wednesday, he entered an Alford plea in Superior Court and will serve up to 20 months behind bars for the conviction.
An Alford plea allows the defendant to maintain innocence while acknowledging prosecutors have sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.
Court officials told Greene he was eligible for probation because the charge is considered a low-level felony and that, along with his prior record level, restricted the judge from imposing an active sentence.
But Greene rejected probation and instead chose prison. Superior Court Judge Beverly T. Beal sentenced Greene to a total of 16 months to 20 months in the N.C. Department of Correction.
He’s also set to start serving up to 36 months in prison for violating probation on separate charges after a District Court judge activated his sentence earlier this week.
Neither Greene nor defense attorney James Davis explained why Greene chose prison time for the indecent liberties charges.
Assistant District Attorney Tim Gould recounted the 2010 incidents, saying Greene and the girl, who was 17 at the time, did not have intercourse but did share a kiss and inappropriate touching on three occasions.
State law defines indecent liberties as actions taken “for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire” or committing a “lewd or lascivious act” on the student. The Post does not identify victims in these cases.
The relationship was discovered when Greene’s now ex-wife, Tiffany, found a letter written by the student to Zachary Greene.
He admitted to kissing the girl, Gould told the court.
It is not clear from court statements if Greene’s ex-wife notified law enforcement about the relationship. Authorities informed officials with the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
The student told prosecutors in a statement that Greene initiated the kissing in the first incident but that she initiated it each time after that.
One encounter occurred at the river, her statement said.
The former student, who is now 19, spoke briefly in court, saying she was a willing participant and that she disagreed with how she has been portrayed by prosecutors, the court, her parents and the media.
“I don’t see myself as a victim,” she said. “… I want to be with him.”
She asked the judge to drop the charges and give Greene another chance. She also asked the judge to lift an order barring Greene from contacting her.
Beal told the former student she could not drop the charges and had to enforce state law, which states that “consent is not a defense.”
The former student sat toward the back of the courtroom and wiped tears from her eyes upon hearing the judge sentence Greene to prison.
Davis, Greene’s attorney, noted that it was unusual for a “victim” to respond in such a way, but he acknowledged his client’s conduct was inappropriate.
“She was indeed a student. He was indeed a teacher. It was indeed wrong,” Davis said.
The attorney asked for an active sentence for one count instead of three counts of indecent liberties with a student.
Davis told the judge that Greene had scoliosis as a child. He said his client had done some good things in his life for others. He called Greene a smart man but added that he “didn’t know he was committing a crime.”
Davis called the case a difficult one.
He said since Greene was charged, his life has spiraled out of control.
“He’s developed a drinking problem, and I don’t know how much weight he’s lost,” Davis said.
Green was charged in April 2010 by the Spencer Police Department with having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old North Rowan High student while he worked there as an English teacher and coach.
In June 2010, he was charged with driving while impaired. Police said at the time that Greene had a .25 blood-alcohol level, more than three times the legal limit. He was convicted in June.
He was convicted in November 2010 with driving while impaired and carrying a concealed weapon in Cabarrus County.
Greene violated the terms of his probation on those charges in August when he missed his appointment with his probation officer. District Court Judge Marshall Bickett activated Greene’s suspended sentence on those charges earlier this week.
Another former North Rowan teacher, Matthew Miles Price, is serving a five-year sentence after violating his probation for sexual activity with students.
Price was originally charged with 40 felony counts of sexual activity with students, but the charges were consolidated to five counts after he accepted a plea agreement in August 2010.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.