Augusta Chronicle [Augusta GA]
September 15, 2021
By Jozsef Papp
A local church school program teacher, who was assaulted at school by an upset parent, has been cleared of any wrongdoing by Columbia County authorities.
In a statement, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office announced they had “a thorough review of video evidence” and investigators concluded that no crime had occurred. The Columbia County Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office was asked to review the case as well. Assistant DA Natalie Paine agreed with the sheriff’s office findings.
Maj. Steve Morris said the sheriff’s office is working to release the video to the general public, however, it’s going to take some time. Morris said the sheriff’s office is working with an outside company to make sure the identities of the children in the video are concealed.
The 61-year-old teacher from St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church was assaulted by Kasey Marie Brooks, 28. After Brooks was arrested and charged with simple battery, she claimed the teacher physically abused and mishandled her son.
John Long, attorney for the teacher, said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement by the sheriff’s office clearing his client of any wrongdoing. He said Brooks has used the case for her own advantage, even raising $32,000 on GoFundMe for her legal fees.
“Almost immediately through social media outlets, who gave Mrs. Brooks a forum to disseminate a false narrative. Mrs. Brooks took the position that her child had been mistreated by my client and falsely alleged that she was somewhat guilty of criminal wrongdoing,” he said.
When reached by phone by an Augusta Chronicle reporter Tuesday, Brooks declined to comment on the case.
“I’m not making a statement right now,” she said.
Brooks’ lawyer, Kimberly Wilder, told The Augusta Chronicle later on Tuesday that Brooks will be in touch.
When asked to speak to the director of the church’s school program on Tuesday, the person answering the phone said they had “no comment.”
According to the incident report, Brooks filed a report for simple battery against the teacher claiming she had seen video of her son’s class at the church that showed the teacher physically abusing and mishandling her 2-year-old son.
Long said thousands of people online accepted Brooks’ account as the truth and directed hateful, derogatory, slanderous and, in some cases, violent comments toward his client, his client’s family business and members of his client’s family.
“People that have made comments, posts and publications that are libelous per se or harassing and threatening in any manner, may have to answer to that conduct in a court of law because that is not protected free speech,” Long said.
Long said the sheriff’s office, along with the DA’s office, reviewed “completely unedited, uninterrupted, continuous video footage of every interaction my client had with any child in that program.” He said his client plans to return to work once she has healed.
“She is still recovering from her injuries. As soon as she is able to return to work, we hope that she will be able to do so,” he said.
Jillison Parks, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah, said the teacher remains on administrative leave but is free to return to work at her discretion.
“We are grateful to the sheriff’s office and the DA’s office for their thorough investigation,” Parks said in a statement.
During Sunday morning service at the church, which was streamed on the church’s website, the Rev. Bob Kepshire announced to the congregation that the sheriff’s office had found no wrongdoing.
“There were video recordings of the attack on the teacher, as well as, continuous and uninterrupted footage of the teacher’s every interaction with all of the children in her classroom. The videos were immediately turned over to law enforcement,” Kepshire said. “This week, Father [Mike]Ingram was informed by investigators of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office that a careful review of the entirety of the recordings showed no mistreatment of any child in our program and nothing to, in any way, to support the false narrative of the person who assaulted the teacher.”
A round of applause broke out after Kepshire made the announcement. He also reminded those in attendance about the power of forgiveness.
“Let us all remember the redemptive power of care and forgiveness of those who have intentionally or recklessly injured our teacher and the reputation of our church,” he said.