SMITHFIELD — The wrestling coach at Corinth Holders High School, appeared in court today after being arrested Thursday afternoon. James McNamara, 25, of Raleigh, was charged with one felony count of taking indecent liberties with a 16-year-old female student.
While todays 9 a.m. court date was only a formal appearance before the district court, nearly two dozen wrestling team members and parents, along with family and friends, came to the courthouse in support of McNamaras innocence.
Community members have stood behind him despite a three-week investigation into the accusation, and more than 1,000 people are members of the We Believe in you Coach Mac!!! Facebook page, created after he was suspended with pay at the start of the investigation.
Jack OHale, McNamaras attorney, asked for a probable cause hearing on April 12, in which the court will be asked to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with the prosecution.
McNamara did not speak during todays hearing.
His mother, Diane McNamara, had stayed quiet about the accusations, but showed up at the courthouse and chose to speak out for her sons innocence. She is also a Johnston County Schools employee, teaching at North Johnston High School.
The allegations are untrue. He has been vilified by the school system, McNamara said outside the courthouse with a crowd of her sons students behind her.
The investigation began in the wake of another sexual abuse case in which a former Archer Lodge Middle School teacher was charged with sexual misconduct.
It was a well orchestrated attack by the school board, Diane McNamara said. My son is being set up because of a reaction to another case.
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.
In a joint statement issued by the school board Friday afternoon, the school system said it trusts in the countys law enforcement agencies and district attorneys office to independently review and make determinations of who should or should not be charged with crimes.
Johnston County Schools evaluates each personnel situation based on the facts of that case, the statement reads. The school system makes reports to law enforcement as required by general statute and at other times out of an abundance of caution.
McNamara remains suspended without pay as the school system continues its own confidential review of the situation, according to school system spokesperson Terri Sessoms.
The family of the accused, as well as his supporters, MacNamaras family and supporters werent aware of the status of the investigation until McNamara was arrested at 5:30 p.m., March 29, which was the last day of school before spring break.
Wrestling parent Mike Grindstaff said it seemed as if the school board planned to arrest him before spring break in hopes that everyone would be gone for a week and lose interest.
Sure enough, he gets arrested the day before spring break, he said.
Most kids on the wrestling team say they arent going anywhere.
They picked the wrong group to make their statement with, Diane McNamara said of the Corinth Holders community and wrestling team. If it werent for them, it would just be my family fighting this battle.