Madison County – A Madison County teacher was found guilty of Class I misdemeanor assault on Wednesday (Feb 16) on the second day of her trial.
Kelly Temofonte, a special needs teacher at Brush Creek Elementary School, was on trial for kicking a student she said was about to hit her. Temofonte said she had her hands full and could not use her hands to restrain the student, so she used her foot to put distance between her and the student.
Temofonte took the stand on Wednesday to tell the court what happened. The incident occurred on May 17, 2021 but was the second occurrence after an incident on May 6. On the May 6 incident, Madison County Assistant District Attorney John Honeycutt said, in his closing arguments, Temofonte was justified in using physical restrain in that instance.
In her testimony, Temofonte said on May 17, she was working on tearing down a class project when the student, called Michael in the courtroom, approached her. Michael showed the same aggressive gesture he had on May 6, when she first had to restrain him to avoid being hit in the face. She told the student, “Michael, we’re not going to do this today.” With her hands full, she said she had to use her leg to keep Michael from approaching her, and in doing that, she made contact with the student causing him to wobble but not knocking him down. Under direct questioning from her lawyer, Paul Bidwell, who asked, “Did you kick Michael,” Temofonte said, “No, I did not.” Asked if any of her teaching assistants commented that day about the incident, she said no.
Honeycutt then cross-examined Temofonte and started with the May 6 incident before moving on to the May 17 issue. Next, she detailed her resignation on May 20 after she was arrested and relieved of her duties on May 19.
Honeycutt also brought out text messages Temofonte had with the mother after the incident, where she expressed she had “made a slightly poor decision.” Honeycutt brought out that the mother believed they were still talking about the May 6 case while Temofonte was talking about the incident on May 17.
After his cross-examination, Honeycutt recalled Calley Shelton, one of Temofonte’s teaching assistants, as a rebuttal witness. In her testimony, she said she saw Temofonte kick Michael. “I was flabbergasted she had kicked him.” However, Temofonte, in testimony, said that Shelton was not “flabbergasted” enough to bring up the incident for the rest of that day. Shelton also said Temofonte was not very patient with the students and yelled a lot. Under cross-examination, Bidwell tried to bring in doubt what Shelton saw as he had her reenact the positions from which she viewed the incident.
In his closing statement, Bidwell said the burden of proof lay with the state to show that Temofonte “intended to assault” the student, which had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. He also pointed out that Temofonte, under state law, had the right to use reasonable force to control a student to stop them from hurting her.
Honeycutt disagreed in his closing statement, saying that the student’s size compared to that of Temofonte and the fact they were both standing made Michael’s threat less than what it was on May 6; and, that her resigning and her text to the mother proved she knew she had done something wrong.
Judge Hal Harrison from Mitchell County did not even leave the bench after closing and finding Temofonte guilty. He sentenced her to 60 days in jail, immediately suspended and ordered her to have no contact with the child and fined her $200 plus court costs.
Asked the day after trial if Temofonte will be appealing the verdict, Bidwell said, “I really can’t answer that at this time.”