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Former teacher pleads guilty in molestation case

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

A former DeKalb County middle school teacher, who was arrested in July for allegedly molesting a teenage girl in Clayton County, has pleaded guilty to charges in the case.

Charles Thomas McClendon, pleaded guilty in Clayton County Superior Court Friday to two counts of sexual battery on a minor under 16, and one count of interference with custody, according to Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.

McClendon was given a 10-year sentence -- with 3 years to be served in prison -- 7 years on probation; a $2,000 fine, and $32 per month in probation fees. He was also ordered to stay away from the victim and her family, Lawson said.

Clayton County Superior Court Judge Geronda Carter presided over the case, according to Lawson. "The victim's family was supportive of the sentence, and was pleased that justice has been served in this case," Lawson said Monday.

At the time of his arrest on July 16, 2009, McClendon -- then aged 29 -- was a math teacher at Stone Mountain Middle School in DeKalb County.

"He was terminated by the DeKalb County School System," said Keith Adams, McClendon's attorney. "It [termination] happened shortly after his arrest on the charges," Adams said.

A DeKalb County Public Schools spokesperson could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Jonesboro Police arrested McClendon in July, when an officer came upon McClendon's pick-up truck, which was parked behind the El Tarasco Mexican Restaurant, located at 121 Jonesboro Road, according to a police report.

"He said he picked up his girlfriend and they were there for the purpose of having sex," Jonesboro Police Officer Eric Bradshaw testified during a preliminary hearing in Clayton County Magistrate Court, in July.

Bradshaw testified that McClendon admitted to him that he had fondled the teenager. "He said that he threw the condom on the floor, and we did find an open condom on the floor," Bradshaw said on the stand.

The officer said the girl initially told him she was 18, but he later determined that she was 15.

Attorney Keith Adams, had said earlier that the teenager also led his client to believe that she was 18 years of age. However, Bradshaw testified that, "He [McClendon] went into how he was sorry, and he thought she was 17."

Bradshaw said McClendon told police he met the girl at the school where he worked.

"She was a student there [Stone Mountain Middle School], and he was a teacher there, and at some point, their paths crossed," said Clayton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green, in July.

"I think that it's an unfortunate situation all the way around," said Adams. "Mr. McClendon is an educated man," he said. "He's got a couple degrees under his belt. I think it was a very poor decision on his part [the incident with the minor], and I think he recognized it was a poor decision, and he was punished appropriately," Adams said.

"He will serve his time, take his punishment, and, hopefully, be able to move on with his life."