Ex-educator gets 15 years for sexual battery

Brandon Lee Hill

HATTIESBURG – (AP) A former Forrest County educator can avoid prison time following his guilty plea to having sex with a high school student if he complies with a detailed list of probation requirements.

Brandon Lee Hill

The Hattiesburg American reports Brandon Lee Hill filed a petition to enter guilty plea to a sexual battery charge last Friday in Forrest County Circuit Court.

On Monday, Judge Bob Helfrich sentenced him to 15 years in Mississippi Department of Corrections' custody to remain suspended on the successful completion of five years of post-release supervision.

Some of Hill's requirements include immediately registering as a sex offender. He must also:

• Remain at home between midnight and 6 a.m. unless required to leave via employment, which he must maintain

• Complete 300 hours of community service

• “Have absolutely no contact whatsoever with the victim,” the sentencing order states

• Possess or consume no alcohol or mood-altering drugs, and submit to testing, among several other conditions.

Hill’s indictment, handed down by a Forrest County grand jury on Dec. 19, accuses him of having a sexual relationship with a then-17-year-old Oak Grove High School senior basketball player beginning in October 2010 and continuing through July 2011 while he was a teacher’s assistant and assistant basketball coach.

Lamar County Superintendent Ben Burnett said in earlier interviews that the initial report of the alleged relationship came to the attention of the district’s athletic director on July 20, 2011. An investigation began the next day, and the district terminated Hill a week later.

Lamar County schools reported the incident to the Mississippi Department of Education and handed the file over to the Lamar County Circuit Court district attorney’s office the next day.

District Attorney Hal Kittrell said following investigation, his office determined the alleged acts occurred in Forrest County and handed the case to the Forrest County district attorney’s office.

State Department of Education spokesman Jon Kalahar confirmed the department did receive a report of the investigation from Lamar County on July 29, 2011.

On Aug. 16, 2011, Hattiesburg High School hired Hill as a teacher’s assistant, according to Hattiesburg Public School District spokesman Jas N Smith. Smith said the district fired Hill on Dec. 1.

Hill’s background check would have produced a clean record at the time of his hire in Hattiesburg — because he had not yet been arrested or charged with a crime.

Mississippi school districts are required to report sexual misconduct to the department, but Kalahar said this is for licensure purposes. Hill’s assistant teacher positions required no license via which the state could take action.

Kalahar said while Hill’s file was flagged following Burnett’s report, it is flagged only for purposes of potential future attempts by Hill to obtain a license.