Topsail High School Baseball Coach Jonathan Gehris was found not guilty of a misdemeanor assault charge during a bench trial on Thursday, April 14 in Pender County District Court.
Pender County Schools released a statement on Monday indicating Gehris remained on paid administrative leave. Mirada Roberts with the district said the reasons for any suspension are confidential under state law, which prevents further comment about the suspension as its remains a confidential personnel matter.
Gehris had been charged Dec. 23, 2015 with misdemeanor assault after a domestic incident. In mid-January, that charge was upgraded to felony assault by strangulation. The Pender County schools division suspended Gehris with pay the next week, saying “This suspension will allow time for an investigation and is not to be interpreted in any way as a reflection of his guilt or innocence.”
The felony charge was dropped in mid-March, according to court records.
Evidence at Thursday’s trial on a single count of misdemeanor assault included a 911 call, testimony from law enforcement officers and the victim, who invoked her Fifth Amendment rights and “did not answer the prosecutor’s questions, with the exception of her name and how she knew Jonathan Gehris,” according to a statement from District Attorney spokeswoman Samantha Dooies. Judge Richard Russell Davis heard the case.
“We understand the complicated dynamics of inter-family violence and are committed to pursuing the truth in a court room,” said District Attorney Ben David, who prosecuted the case.
Judge Richard Russell, who heard the case, found Gehris not guilty.
Gehris was suspended from his job as a physical education teacher in Pender County Schools in late January. The Board of Education has yet to comment whether Gehris would be reinstated as a physical education teacher and head baseball coach.