One of the four Manatee County School District administrators arrested as a result of the Rod Frazier investigation may soon be able to put the entire ordeal behind her.
"We feel that she was innocent and that she should have never been charged," said attorney Derek Byrd. Byrd is talking about his client, Debra Horne, who is facing felony charges.
"I think the irony of this case is that Rod Frazier, if he did what he's accused of, is charged with misdemeanors and the people that didn't make a phone call are charged with felonies," added Byrd.
Former Manatee High assistant football coach Rod Frazier is accused of inappropriately touching several female students and staff members. Debra Horne conducted an internal investigation into the matter and found no wrong doing. Her findings have been widely criticized since, and became the basis for her being charged with "failing to report child abuse." But Byrd says the case against Horne had seemingly fallen apart which resulted in her and the State Attorney's office coming to a pretrial agreement.
"They came to the conclusion that, wait a second, we are going to have a hard time convicting her when you get the two school board lawyers taking the stand and saying we told her that's not child abuse and you don't need to make a call to a hotline. I can't imagine a jury convicting her when she relied on the advice of council," added Byrd.
According to Byrd the State Attorney's office agreed to drop all charges and in exchange Horne will perform 75 hours of community service. An, outcome Byrd says is bittersweet.
"As a lawyer it's a win anytime you get a case dismissed, even with a pre-trial intervention. But, I'm not so sure that Ms. Horne necessarily considers this a win because she basically lost her career over this and she's been an educator and an administrator for over 20 years," said Byrd.
Byrd also told ABC 7 that an even more disturbing detail about this case is the amount of attention directed at the four former Manatee County School District administrators, and the fact that they all face felony charges for not reporting child abuse. Disturbing, he says, because Frazier is charged with misdemeanor battery and not child abuse. "I don't know if Frazier is innocent or guilty, but if he is in fact guilty his actions have ruined the lives of many, many people. It's really sad that, because of one man and what he did, and all these other people are being blamed for it and he somehow is only charged with a couple of misdemeanors."
We reached out to the attorneys of the other defendants in the Frazier case, and of those available, none think the decision to dismiss Horne's charges will effect their cases.