Ex-principal at Arkansas middle school admits sexual indecency with teen

A retired Lake Hamilton Middle School principal arrested twice for sexual indecency involving a 13-year-old student was sentenced to five years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to felony charges in Garland County Circuit Court.

Lester Dewayne Curry, 61, of Glenwood appeared with his attorney, Brent Miller, and pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual indecency with a child and was sentenced to five years on each count, to run concurrently. A more serious charge of second-degree sexual assault, punishable by up to 20 years, was withdrawn.

Curry has remained in custody in lieu of $400,000 bond since his second arrest Nov. 29 and will be given credit for time served — a total of 98 days. He also was ordered to pay $590 in court costs. He must register as a sex offender and was permanently barred from any contact with the victim in the case.

Special prosecutor Jack McQuary of Benton said Monday that he was pleased with the sentence.

“We’re not having to put a minor victim through even more troubling things than what has already occurred,” McQuary said. “She doesn’t have to sit there and tell her story in front of 12 strangers. Anytime you can reduce the amount of psychological damage done to the victim, I’m all for it.”

McQuary, who said Curry “has done this before,” added that he was prepared to present a witness, “another young girl,” who had made similar allegations against Curry when he was a coach and teacher in Missouri.

McQuary said the prosecution had a letter from the previous complainant in the file and that he was prepared to have her testify. He said he had her write a letter detailing what she was prepared to testify about so the prosecution could decide whether to use her testimony in the trial.

“What she described tracked exactly to what he did with the victim here,” McQuary said.

McQuary said the Arkansas victim’s family approved of Monday’s plea agreement.

“You never know what a jury might do,” he said. “He’s a convicted felon now and is considered somewhat of a habitual offender since there are two counts.”

Miller said the sentence agreed upon was based on his evaluation of the case and was made after conferring with Curry.

“I meticulously reviewed a significant amount of data and information that was salient to the issue of whether there was discernible proof of the allegations,” Miller said. “Ultimately, the second encounter was problematic and led to the plea negotiations that were finalized [Monday].”

According to the affidavit on the original charges leading to his June 3, 2016, arrest, Curry was interviewed May 25, 2016, at the Garland County sheriff’s office and denied allegations of kissing and putting his hands on the student’s buttocks while at the school, but he admitted to calling, texting, emailing and direct messaging the student on Instagram. He also denied having sexual conversations with her.

Curry submitted his resignation May 26, the day after he was interviewed by investigators. His retirement became effective June 30.

According to the affidavit for his second arrest, the now 14-year-old victim was interviewed at the Cooper-Anthony Mercy Child Advocacy Center on Nov. 28, and she disclosed details of Curry sexually assaulting her during a meeting at the corner of a road in a residential area off U.S. 70 west at around 8 a.m. Nov. 23. She said Curry had contacted her through an Instagram account despite a previous no-contact order.