A former Glen Burnie High School teacher and coach facing sexual misconduct charges entered an Alford plea Friday afternoon in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
Jeffery Robert Sears Jr., 30, was charged with two counts of sex abuse of a minor and one count of fourth-degree sex offense. By entering an Alford plea, Sears admitted that the state had enough of a case against him to find him guilty while maintaining his innocence. The plea carries the same weight as a guilty plea.
Sears was arrested Dec. 8, 2011, after police alleged he had sexual relationships with three girls ranging in age from 15 to 16 while they were students at Glen Burnie High. Police said the incidents reportedly took place both on and off campus, during and after school hours, between November 2009 and October 2011.
During the hearing, Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Rogers described alleged sexual relationships between Sears and three Glen Burnie students—one who graduated in 2011 and two who still attend the school. Two of the victims attended the hearing.
Rogers said Sears acted as a confidant to at least two of the victims while they were students at the school and escalated the interactions from friendly to sexual.
Rogers said victims would have testified that they engaged in sexual conversations—sending naked pictures to Sears on their cell phones—and activities with him, including performing oral sex on him in his classroom and having intercourse with him at his home and in his car.
Sears, who began teaching at Glen Burnie High School in 2006, taught English at the school and coached the junior varsity boys basketball team.
While he is still an employee of Anne Arundel County Public Schools, spokesman Bob Mosier said Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell will move forward with plans to remove Sears, who has been working in a logistics garage.
Sears has not been in a setting where he's been in contact with a student since the allegations came to light last November, Mosier said.
"The superintendent will be proceeding with a recommendation for his immediate termination," Mosier said. "He will do what he can to make sure that Mr. Sears forfeits his teaching certificate so that he doesn't teach ever again."
Mosier also said the school system continues to offer assistance to the students involved.
In a December 2011 press conference, school leaders and officials said they were sickened by the charges.
"As a leader of Glen Burnie High School and a leader of students, of course this sickens me," said principal Vickie Plitt at the press conference, who acknowledged she was taking the news hard.
"As principal of Glen Burnie High School, one of my responsibilities is to protect my students," she said, holding back tears.
The allegations began in November 2011 when an assistant volleyball coach at Glen Burnie notified Plitt about a possible sexual relationship between Sears and a student. Plitt then notified the school system, which contacted social services.
The charges carry a total of up to 51 years in prison and a $1,000 fine, but the State's Attorney's Office is recommending Sears serve a maximum of 10 years in prison. He also would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Sears is scheduled to be sentenced on April 27.