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FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) -- A former North Layton Junior High School science teacher accused of touching the bottoms of three girls has pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree felony child abuse.
Under the plea bargain, prosecutors will recommend at James Kenneth McQuade's sentencing on July 21 that he receive probation instead of a prison term. The judge also could reduce the charge to a misdemeanor if he successfully completes probation.
McQuade entered the plea Thursday before 2nd District Judge Darwin Hansen.
The teacher originally was charged with three counts of first-degree felony aggravated sexual abuse of a child.
Deputy Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings told Hansen information discovered by the defense undermined the likelihood of convictions at trial.
The charges had alleged that in separate incidents during the 2002-03 school year, McQuade touched the buttocks of a 12-year-old student and two other seventh-grade girls.
But only one girl initially came forward. Rawlings noted that the other two girls had to be tracked down two years later by police.
Rawlings said the first girl gave a statement to school officials in which she never mentioned being touched on the buttocks.
The school statement, obtained by the defense and previously unknown to prosecutors, is inconsistent with statements the girl gave to police and her testimony at a June 2004 preliminary hearing.
A second girl had testified that while she believed McQuade had touched her deliberately, he might have done it accidentally. The defense was planning to introduce evidence that the girl had an ax to grind against McQuade.
The third girl believed other students had witnessed McQuade touch her, but they denied seeing anything.
Rawlings said all three girls were reluctant to testify at trial.
Rawlings also defended the plea deal by saying, "If Mr. McQuade did do it, it was a brief touching of the buttocks, over the clothing. Honestly, I don't think it warrants a first-degree felony in the first place."
McQuade taught school for more than 15 years. His teaching license has been revoked.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)