HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A former Hancock High School theatre teacher is headed to prison after he pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery of a juvenile. District Attorney Joel Smith said 41-year-old Hiram Jay Coker, of Slidell, LA, was sentenced to 20 years in prison to be served day-to-day without the possibility of early release.
"The investigation began when the juvenile victim reported the incidents to the principal at Hancock High School, who then informed the Hancock County Sheriff's Office of the crime in April 2013," said Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel.
Smith said the victim reported the abuse happened at the high school and on a drama trip to Harrison County. The victim's mother attended Coker's plea hearing and addressed him before the sentence was handed down.
"My daughter has had the last years of her innocence stripped away because of the selfish needs of a man, a man who should have been there for support as a teacher and a mentor," said the victim's mother.
"I failed her as a teacher and mentor. I was not what she needed me to be," said Coker. "I was not what her parents needed me to be. I was not what my other students needed me to be. I was not what my family needed me to be. I was wrong and I am terribly sorry. It was my fault and that is why I am here."
After the sentence was handed down, Judge John Garguilo told Coker he had violated the trust instilled in him as an educator.
"You were in a position of trust. You obliterated that trust. I can't imagine what in any respect could fix for that child," said Garguilo.
After his release, Coker will have to register as a sex offender.