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Ex-Harlem teacher indicted for sex with student

Posted: June 18, 2012 - 5:00pm  |  Updated: June 19, 2012 - 4:50pm
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Mitchell Sivas  Hand Out
Hand Out
Mitchell Sivas

Twitter @ColumbiaCounty

A McDuffie County grand jury on Monday indicted a former Harlem High School Junior ROTC instructor for having sex with a student.

Mitchell Sivas, 57, of Thomson, was indicted Monday on the first day of presentments by the grand jury on a charge of sexual assault by a person with disciplinary authority, according to records in McDuffie County Superior Court. The indictment refers to the formal charge against any teacher who has sex with a student who attends the same school.

Sivas likely will be formally charged and arraigned in a hearing that could take place next month, according to Superior Court Clerk Connie Cheatham.

Sivas, who resigned from Harlem High on March 4 when Principal Deitmar Perez confronted him about the relationship with the 17-year-old student, was charged on April 11 and currently is free on $10,000 bond. The student has since graduated from Harlem.

After Sivas’ resignation, Thomson Police initially said they would not pursue charges and deferred prosecution to Columbia County. Meanwhile, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office officials said they lacked jurisdiction in the case because the acts took place outside Columbia County.

Then-Thomson Police Chief Joe Nelson asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for help because of what he called the “multi-jurisdictional” nature of the allegations. After initially denying any sexual activity took place, the student later told investigators that she and Sivas had sex at his home in Thomson. Sivas then was arrested.

Nelson has since resigned from the Thomson Police Department.

According to Georgia law, sex between a teacher and a student who attends the same school constitutes sexual assault, and the student’s consent cannot be used as a defense, no matter the student’s age. A person convicted under the law is subject to a minimum of one year in prison and a maximum of 25 years, and a fine of up to $100,000, or both, with harsher penalties for younger victims.

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