A former assistant football coach at Jones County High School pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges that he sent sexually explicit messages to a 16-year-old female student last year.
In the fall of 2016, Thomas Jacob Norman, now 29, was in his first year of teaching at the school when his roughly two-month relationship with the girl came to light that October. Another student reported suspicions about a romance between Norman and the girl to a teacher.
Norman, who coached the Greyhounds’ defensive line, was commuting to the school in Gray from his home in Thomaston. He resigned around the time of his Oct. 7, 2016, arrest on charges that included soliciting sexually explicit material from the girl, kissing her and electronically furnishing obscene material to her. That material, authorities said, included a photograph of his penis.
Prosecutors say the girl sent Norman explicit messages in return and was, as Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin put it, “flattered by” Norman’s attention.
“She was incredibly naive,” Baskin told The Telegraph on Thursday.
Earlier this year after Norman was indicted, Baskin described text and social media messages between Norman and the student as being “more explicit than ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’” the popular erotic novel and movie.
The case against Norman was set for trial Wednesday. A jury had been picked, but Norman chose instead to plead guilty to charges that included trying to engage in sexual conduct with someone he had a supervisory position over.
All told, Norman and the student had more than 2,000 combined electronic interactions — phone calls, texts and contacts via Snapchat and Facebook — over a 19-day span. Though the pair were thought to have communicated more than that, those messages were the only ones that authorities recovered.
Jones sheriff’s Sgt. Clay Wiggins scoured Norman’s cellphone and found some of Norman’s deleted messages to the girl, Baskin said.
Norman was sentenced to seven years on probation, the first six months of which must be served behind bars.
“The sad thing in all of this,” Baskin said, “is not only did he mislead a 16-year-old girl, but he’s married with two children.”