Laura Deane Lyles (34), a former Pickens High Shool teacher indicted after allegations of sexual misconduct with male students during the 2009-2010 school year, has pled guilty to a state accusation of cruelty to children in a plea bargain that spares Lyles from prosecution on charges brought in her indictment.
Lyles' guilty plea on child cruelty charges came just before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 8, at the end of a Superior Court session to handle plea bargains for numerous defendants in a variety of cases.
The session began at roughly 4:30 p.m., following arrival of presiding Superior Court Judge Roger Bradley to the upstairs courtroom within the Pickens County Courthouse. Lyles' case came last, the court session ending around 6:45 p.m., shortly after she was sentenced.
Lyles' indictment included two charges of sexual assault on a person in custody, two sodomy charges, and four charges of furnishing beverage alcohol to underage persons. The state's accusation of cruelty to children in the first degree was put forward by the prosecution pursuant to a plea agreement, explained Assistant District Attorney Scott Poole, who served as prosecutor during the Lyles proceeding.
The state's accusation against Lyles of cruelty to children stems from mental anguish suffered by male students as a result of sexual contact with their teacher, Poole explained before Judge Bradley.
The state was willing to accept a plea bargain in the case because securing a jury conviction against Lyles on the sodomy and sexual assault charges could have proved problematic given some recent rulings of the Georgia Supreme Court, Poole told the judge.
By Lyles' guilty plea on child cruelty charges under the plea agreement, she spared herself from the possibility of being included on the state's sexual offender list for her lifetime––something subject to have happened had she been convicted on the sexual assault charges of her indictment.
Representing Lyles, defense attorney George Weaver indicated to the court he believed Lyles could have beaten the sodomy and assault charges at trial, Weaver referring to two examples of case law to substantiate his statement.
"This is her absolute request that this be disposed of," Weaver told the judge. "This is her doing this, not George Weaver doing this."
In statements Lyles made under oath before Judge Bradley in entering her guilty plea, she said she suffers from bipolar disorder and takes medication for it. She was prescribed medication for the disorder by a local doctor who later refused to see her during a follow-up visit, Lyles said, after allegations of her sexual misconduct with students became public.
Bradley asked Lyles if she had ever considered at the time of her involvement with students that it might land her in court as she was.
"No, sir," she replied. "I was sick. I was manic."
Bradley sentenced Lyles to 12 years, all to be served on probation except the first six months she will serve as a prisoner in the county jail. Lyles is to pay the cost of her incarceration at $40 per day. She is to pay a fine of $1,000 with some statutory add-ons. She is to pay an administrative fee for management of her probation over the 12-year sentence.
Conditions of Lyle's probation include the following:
•No contact with victims in the case.
•Surrender of her teaching license.
•No attempt to reinstate her teaching license for the 12 years of her probation.
•Holding no job or position that would place Lyles in supervisory control of persons under the age of 18, except her own children.
Under the sentence, Lyles is also to perform 200 hours of community service with the option to pay for rather than perform 50 of those hours at a cost to her of $10 per hour.
Following Bradley's handing down of Lyles' sentence, she was provided the fully detailed sentence on paper to present at the jail on her arrival. Lyles was told to report to the Pickens County Jail by 8 p.m. She began serving her sentence the same evening.