CLAYTON — A Johnston County high school wrestling coach was arrested Thursday and charged with one felony count of taking indecent liberties with a 16-year-old female student.
But some students at Corinth Holders High School arent giving up on coach James McNamara, 25, of Raleigh, despite a three-week investigation into the accusation that has galvanized the community.
The Johnston County Sheriffs Office says it began investigating the case March 6, in consultation with the district attorneys office. But investigators released no details about what led to the charges against the social studies teacher.
Swarm of support online
More than 1,000 people are members of the We believe in you Coach Mac!!! Facebook page, which was created after he was suspended at the start of the investigation.
Within hours of the arrest, supporters also started a Twitter hashtag, #freejimmy, to aggregate the stream of support flowing on social media.
Wrestling parent Mike Grindstaff wrote on Twitter that he wants the school system and the sheriffs office to be more forthcoming with details. All will be forgotten, he wrote. There is no reason to keep ruining someones life. Just tell the truth.
James McNamaras mother, Diane McNamara, is an employee with Johnston County Schools. She said she had no comment on the arrest.
Johnston County schools spokeswoman Terri Sessoms says McNamara remains suspended with pay. The school system is continuing to conduct a confidential review of this situation and continues to cooperate with law enforcement, Sessoms said in a statement.
The arrest comes amid two other investigations for sexual misconduct involving a former teacher at Archer Lodge Middle School and a teacher at Clayton High School. McNamaras supporters worry that the school system wont investigate the case on its own merits.
McNamaras supporters gathered Thursday night at a Clayton pizzeria, where they have been meeting weekly to show support and discuss how they can prove to the schools that McNamara hasnt done anything wrong.
Everybody believes this man is innocent, said wrestling parent Angela Soles. I love this area and I love the school, but now I really hate Johnston County everything.
Opened two years ago, Corinth Holders High managed to win the N.C. 2A Conference Championship in wrestling during the 2011-2012 winter sports season.
Soles son, Dillon Barton, is a freshman on the team. He said he hopes McNamara is proven innocent when the trial begins. He was a great man, he said. He didnt deserve this at all.
Parent Shannon Johnson said she too was disappointed in the school system. Johnsons two sons are on the wrestling team, and her daughter, Ashley Johnson, is a freshman wrestling team manager.
At the pizzeria last week, Ashley Johnson said she supports Coach Mac. A freshman wrestling team manager with two brothers on the team, she said McNamara has never treated her with anything but respect.
Parents chimed in, saying he always pushed his students to focus on wrestling and grades.
Wrestling parent Scott Bargoil said hes never heard a crass joke out of McNamara.
Hes always been respectful. Im a father (of two girls); if I had an issue with the team and how they treat women, they wouldnt be volunteers, Bargoil said.
McNamaras bail was set at $5,000.