Federal prosecutors say a teacher accused of kidnapping his 15-year-old student and repeatedly having sex with her while fleeing to California should remain jailed as a flight risk until he’s tried on a charge that could keep him in prison for life.
Tad Cummins appeared in court in Nashville Tuesday to face a federal charge of bringing a minor across state lines for sex. The 50-year-old health science teacher was shackled with leg irons and wearing a black and gray striped jail jumpsuit. He smiled at several relatives who came to watch.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Holmes asked Cummins if he understood that he faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and could get life if convicted of the federal charge. Cummins replied softly, answering that he understood. The judge scheduled a detention hearing for Friday.
The married father of two also faces state charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor after allegedly taking the student on March 13 and leading police on a nationwide manhunt. Authorities credited the caretaker of a remote northern California property for helping police find the girl and arrest Cummins last month.
Cummins “did not merely flee with the victim — he took numerous measures to conceal both his and his victim’s location throughout the course of his flight across the continent,” prosecutors alleged in a court document. They called him a danger to the community, saying he abused his position of public trust as the student’s teacher.
The victim’s mother has pleaded not guilty to charges involving physically abuse of the girl and her siblings months before the teacher took her away. Cummins recognized and exploited the victim’s vulnerability, the prosecutors said, and “admitted to law enforcement, as well as other witnesses, that he engaged in multiple sex acts with the victim in numerous locations over the 38-day period.”
The judge appointed Cummins a federal public defender after finding him too poor to pay for a lawyer. That lawyer was not available for comment and did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press.
The teacher’s wife of 31 years filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct, while Cummins was missing. Cummins was fired a day after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued an Amber Alert about the teen.