A Georgia man accused of lewd and lascivious conduct and sexual exploitation of a child is on track for a November trial in Franklin County Superior Court.
Darren Haynes, 47, appeared before Judge A. Gregory Rainville on Tuesday morning with attorney Rosie Chase. Haynes, a former Missisquoi Valley Union High School teacher, faces two felony charges with a total sentence of up to 20 years in prison and $15,000 in fines if convicted.
Haynes pleaded not guilty to both counts on May 30, four days after police arrested him for incidents authorities say occurred between 2015 and 2016.
The Northwest Unit for Special Investigations – the taskforce that investigates sex-based crimes and child abuse in Franklin County – was notified of Haynes’ alleged misconduct in March after a report to the Vt. Department for Children and Families, court documents show.
Haynes is accused of inappropriately touching a 15-year-old female MVU student by rubbing her leg and slapping her buttocks, Detective Trooper Drew Cota’s affidavit shows. Haynes also allegedly bought the girl gifts, such as lipstick, and engaged in sexually explicit conversations on social media.
Police interviewed the girl in April, when she told detectives Haynes sexually harassed her the prior school year when she was in ninth grade.
One day when she stayed after school to take a test, the girl said Haynes told her, “if you were older, I would pursue a relationship with you,” court records show.
The victim told police Haynes was close with other students, too, and talked to them about personal problems, including relationships. She also said she was in a “vulnerable stage” then.
Court records show the victim recalled an instance when Haynes rubbed her legs under a table while she was seated next to him during an after-school program. Another time, Haynes allegedly slapped the girl on the butt during class. She said Haynes emailed her later to ask if the behavior made her uncomfortable; she told him it did.
At the time of the police investigation, Haynes was no longer employed at MVU; records show he did not renew his teaching contract at the end of the 2015-16 school year, and MVU principal Dennis Hill told detectives Haynes left due to poor performance.
Haynes was, however, a teacher at BFA-Fairfax, investigators learned from his Facebook page. Principal John Tague confirmed Haynes replaced another teacher on medical leave as a long-term substitute in March. Before that, Haynes subbed off and on in Fairfax since last September, Tague told police.
On May 26, Haynes left his classroom to meet NUSI detectives in a BFA conference room, court records show. When confronted, Haynes admitted to being “sexually attracted” to the victim despite her age and said he continued interacting with her because “he liked the attention of having someone like her show him affection,” Cota wrote in his affidavit.
Police transcripts of Facebook and Snapchat messages between Haynes and the victim reveal sexually explicit exchanges. At one point, Haynes told the girl – then a few months shy of 16 – that he wished she were 21.
“As long as you’re in school, we can’t do anything. We shouldn’t even be having this conversation. I could lose my teaching license,” Haynes wrote to the victim. “21 just happens to be a number I’m comfortable with.”
Later in the conversation, Haynes told the victim he was “falling in love,” a sentiment the girl told police he commonly expressed.
At detectives’ request, Haynes penned an apology letter to the victim, which police included in court records. In it, Haynes asks for the girl’s forgiveness.
During their interview, police also asked Haynes about another MVU student school officials advised he had an inappropriate relationship with. Detectives previously spoke to the girl, now 20, who immediately suspected their investigation concerned Haynes.
She detailed similar instances of gifts from Haynes, highly personal exchanges and social media conversations. She said Haynes called her beautiful and also described a time she felt “uncomfortable” when he picked her up to crack her back.
Haynes admitted to calling the girl beautiful, but “he would say that about a lot of students, in the context that they were beautiful people,” the affidavit says.
Haynes admitted some conversations with the underage female students “crossed the line” but could not recall inappropriate physical contact, court records show. Rather, he told police “he hugged a lot of people because that’s how they embrace where [Haynes] is originally from.”
Court records indicate Haynes has no prior criminal record. After his arrest in May, he was held on $15,000 bail for lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and luring a child.
Haynes was released on May 30 with conditions not to contact or harass the victims or their families; he is also prohibited from being in the presence of any female under age 18 and must avoid places frequented by children like playgrounds, schools and arcades. Conditions also prevent him from talking to females under age 18 on social media.
Haynes’ teaching license is still active until it expires in June 2019, the Vt. Agency of Education database shows. He holds endorsements in mathematics and social studies.
Haynes’ next court date was not scheduled at press time, but parties are moving toward a fall trial.