A former social studies teacher accused of sexually abusing and assaulting female students at a Rio Rico middle school waived a preliminary hearing this week, sending his case to Superior Court without prosecutors having to convince a justice of the peace that they have probable cause to charge him.
Jeffrey Lawrence, 50, of Rio Rico, had originally been set for a preliminary, probable cause hearing on March 20 in front of Justice of the Peace Mary Helen Maley. The hearing was postponed until April 18, and then postponed again until Wednesday, May 30. However, court records show that Lawrence then waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, sending the case to Superior Court where prosecutors will either have to convince a jury that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or convince him to sign a plea agreement.
Lawrence was arrested March 8 and subsequently charged in Nogales Justice Court with three counts of sexual abuse and five counts of aggravated assault – offenses that allegedly involved five female students at Calabasas Middle School.
Since then, the County Attorney’s Office has amended its complaint against Lawrence, adding a sixth alleged victim and charging him with a total of nine felony counts.
The new complaint, filed on May 25, now accuses him of five counts of sexual assault – all Class 3 felonies – and four counts of aggravated assault – Class 6 felonies.
Lawrence will enter a plea during a yet-to-be scheduled arraignment at Superior Court in Nogales.
Lawrence was first hired by the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District as a substitute teacher on March 17, 1998, district officials said. On July 31, 2002, he was hired as a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Calabasas. The school district placed him on leave following his arrest.
In a letter dated March 27, Lawrence notified the district that he was resigning effective at the end of the 2011-12 academic year, which was May 25.
Lawrence is out of custody as he awaits trial, having posted a $150,000 surety bond on March 16.
Source : nogalesinternational