02/17/10 — Teacher pleads in sex case

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Teacher pleads in sex case

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 17, 2010 1:46 PM

Prosecutors reduced two felony sex offenses to misdemeanors against a former Southern Wayne High School teacher on Tuesday morning.

Assistant District Attorney Paige Rouse said that conflicting witness statements led the state to believe that prosecution on felony sex charges could be difficult.

Instead, Ms. Rouse said, prosecutors would offer Shannon Grace Herring, 35, of Lenoir County, a chance to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

Ms. Herring, of Sykes Road, accepted the agreement, pleading guilty to both counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which are Class I misdemeanors.

District Court Judge Timothy I. Finan sentenced her to a suspended 45-day sentence, a 24-month period of supervised probation, a $300 fine and 50 hours of community service.

Ms. Herring was ordered to undergo a psychological exam, and to comply with any findings of the counselors conducting the exams.

Before announcing the plea arrangement, Ms. Rouse described the particulars of the case.

"He was a student at her school, (although) he was not directly in her class, the investigation showed that there were a lot of out-of-school contacts with the student," Ms. Rouse said.

On one occasion, Ms. Herring allegedly transported the 17-year-old student to Pitt County, where she allegedly bought merchandise for the young man.

On another trip to Cumberland county, Ms. Herring allegedly transported the student and some other friends.

That trip was the source of some of the conflicting witness statements, the assistant district attorney said.

"Different witnesses had different statements about what had happened" on that trip, leading Ms. Rouse to believe that a plea bargain with the defendant was the proper course, she said.

Ms. Herring was represented by attorney Mark J. Herring, who said that Ms. Herring's acceptance of the plea agreement in no way meant she was admitting to the more severe charges.

"My client adamantly denies any liability" for the sex offenses, Herring said. "However, she is ready to put this behind her. We feel that this is a fair and responsible way to resolve this matter."