History Repeats Itself with Sex Abuse Cases

By Mike McClanahan
CBS 42
February 5, 2012

[with video]

ALABASTER, Ala. (WIAT) According to police, former school teacher Daniel Acker has admitted to molesting more than twenty children during his time with Shelby County Schools. Acker was investigated and cleared on similar charges during the early 1990's, according to police. Acker was actually selected to be Teacher of the Year around that time. Many parents may be wondering how something like that could happen, but similar scenarios have played out before in Central Alabama. Some draw parallels between the Acker case and the 1995 conviction of Homewood resident Don Corley on multiple counts of sexual abuse and sodomy involving children.

"All those charges were underage and forced," said Mike Anderton, Deputy District Attorney, Jefferson County.

Prosecutor Mike Anderton remembers the disturbing details of the Corley case all too well. He describes the convicted sex offender as a wolf in sheep's clothing.

"He acted like any molester out there and he groomed his potential victims. He talked to them about the games he had at his house, he got the trust of their parents, their custodians, so it was okay for these kids to come to his house or get into a particular setting where he could molest them," said Anderton.

Corley was a scout volunteer and a church leader.

"These molesters have a tendency to gravitate toward for lack of a better word, a feeding ground....organizations where there are youngsters, youth groups, boy scouts, church groups, sometimes the local parks and that type thing. So you know we've got to keep an eye on where our children are going," said Anderton.

More than fifteen years later, the emotional pressure on Corley's victims and their families before his recent parole hearing was intense.

"You feel just tight and bound and restricted," said Meagan Lee, wife of victim Jason Lee.

Last week, Corley victim Jason Lee and his supporters gathered in Montgomery to ask that Corley's parole be denied. With a web campaign and letters from elected leaders, they weren't taking any chances. In the end they were successful. Corley's parole was denied and he won't come up for parole again for five years.

"There's definitely a sense of- take a deep breath and relax, but it doesn't mean the conversation stops for us," said Meagan Lee.

With Corley locked up for the time being, they can try to return to normal, but they can't drop their guard.

"You know I don't think we ever totally put it away. It keeps happening and I think the more we talk about it, and the more we bring it into the light and make sure it's not a secret, the easier it is for things like this to be prevented," said Meagan Lee.

Mike Anderton says it takes a tremendous amount of courage for sexual abuse victims to come forward.

"For somebody to explain to grown-ups that an adult has touched them, an adult has molested them, that takes a great deal of courage, because they're usually going up against someone who is respected in the community...just like Mr. Corley was," said Anderton. "To come in as adults and say this guy molested me, I cannot express how courageous these three folks are. They have put everything on the line and they're doing it all -not for themselves, but they're doing it all to try to prevent anything else from going on, one with Don Corley, but two with anybody out there that may be in this same situation. These guys have shown what courage is. Maybe that will inspire somebody out there who's got this same problem and it's weighing on their mind... they haven't said anything about it... maybe it will inspire them to come forward and we can get rid of...we can get another molester off the street."

The statute of limitations that hindered such prosecutions in the past- no longer exists.

"There is no statute of limitations. Back then there was," said Anderton. "They changed the law so things are getting better for child victims in order to try and protect them more. The public is becoming more aware. It's becoming more of a political issue, so that we can take care of this stuff. Thirty years ago a lot of this was swept under the carpet, and if it happened in the family people would say- okay just don't hang around that uncle or that cousin or something like that and the world's changed...this time for the better."


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