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Thomson Police won't pursue charges against teacher

Posted: March 28, 2012 - 2:17pm  |  Updated: March 28, 2012 - 2:21pm
Former Harlem High School teacher Mitchell Sivas won't face charges despite admissions from a student that the two had sex.  Special
Former Harlem High School teacher Mitchell Sivas won't face charges despite admissions from a student that the two had sex.


Despite written statements that a Harlem High School student had sex with a man who was then a teacher at her school, the Thomson Police Department will not pursue charges in the case.

Instead, any prosecution would be left up to Columbia County authorities who counter that they have no standing to bring charges because the sexual activity took place at the teacher’s Thomson home.

Mitchell Sivas, 57, the Harlem senior Junior ROTC instructor who resigned after the relationship with the 17-year-old student came to light, apparently will not be charged even though state law specifies that sex between a student and a teacher at the same school constitutes sexual assault.

Thomson Police Department Capt. Jamie Bridges said his agency is deferring any prosecution to Columbia County. “Basically, if we don’t have a victim or a complainant, we don’t have a case,” he said.

Bridges said in their initial investigation, in which officers found the student at Sivas’ Michael Street home on March 3, both denied any sexual activity while professing “strong feelings” for each other.

Yet Thomson Police since then have received written admissions from the student that sex took place, said Columbia County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.

“They have two statements,” Morris said. “One that was written at the school that was supplied to them, and another that (the student) wrote for her dad and signed, that they’re in possession of, where she admits having sexual intercourse with him on more than one occasion.

“I furnished them with the school statement, and the father hand-delivered the typed and signed statement,” Morris said. “For whatever reason, I guess they’re not going to pursue it.”

The father also has since said that he doesn’t want the case prosecuted “because he doesn’t want to drag her through the mud,” Morris said, though a parent in such a case would not have the authority to decide whether charges are brought.

Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders said none of that information has been forwarded to him.

“If I get a file I’m going to look at it just like any other case,” Sanders said. “They (Thomson Police) haven’t sent me a file.”

The only contact he’s had with police about the case, he said, was a consultation immediately after officers interviewed Sivas and the student at Sivas’ home.

“(They) met with me and said they went out to the scene and there was a denial of any inappropriate activity,” Sanders said.

“If a case is made, it’s not up to the DA to make a case,” he said, adding that subsequent allegations of inappropriate conduct are “hearsay.”

Georgia law specifies that sexual assault occurs when “a teacher, principal, assistant principal, or other administrator of any school and engages in sexual contact with such other individual who the actor knew or should have known is enrolled at the same school.”

Under a change in the law made last year, in response to a similar case at Harlem High School that was overturned by the state Supreme Court, the victim’s consent “shall not be used as a defense to a prosecution.”

That means that even though the student is older than the legal age of consent, any sex between her and the teacher would be illegal - and if that activity had taken place in Columbia County rather than Thomson, Sivas would be charged, Morris said.

“It’s frustrating,” he said.

A person convicted under the law is subject to a minimum of one year in prison and a maximum of 25, and a fine of up to $100,000, or both, with harsher penalties for younger victims.

“There really is nowhere else to go with it,” Morris said. “It’s the end for us.”

Sivas had been Harlem High’s senior Junior ROTC instructor since he was hired in 2011, after previously serving as a Junior ROTC instructor at Grady High School in Atlanta.

According to the Harlem High School Junior ROTC Web site, Sivas is a 26-year veteran who served in Airborne, Air Assault and Special Operations units and “served several combat assignments with Special Forces.”

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Comments (4)


Harlem Teacher

If Thompson Police, nor Columbia County will prosecute, then can GBI take over the case?
That's a pretty big issue for both districts to just drop it. Our children need protection, especially with a teacher. If this man is not prosecuted, he can just move to another state & keep teaching. It is an injustice to future students to just drop it!!!


If you break the law, then

If you break the law, then someone should prosecute! Also, the state should take away his teaching credentials. Why are they trying to put this one under the table?



The Thomson police are making a decision that's not theirs to make. Total incompetence. Follow the law!

Little Lamb


You ask why they are putting this one under the table. Well, I can think of a few reasons. One is that the two conflicting written statements (allegedly by the same person, though one of the statements is typewritten) could be a sticky wicket for a prosecutor in a courtroom. Which one is true (if either)? Another reason to drop the case is that neither the girl nor her father wish to pursue it in court. The testimony would be tawdry (of course, the salacious details might be why so many around here want the thing to go to court).

Another reason might be that the cost of the trial could get out of hand for a little city like Thomson and the benefits to the citizens of such a trial would be few or none. In other words, the cost would exceed the benefits.

Another reason — the student does not have a history of being a truant nor a juvenile delinquent; neither does the teacher have a history of being a criminal.