- By Tyler Estep The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The former Auburn University and Gwinnett County football standout arrested last month on child pornography charges was also accused of taking inappropriate pictures of students while working as a substitute teacher, according to newly obtained documents.
Those documents also revealed that Brad Lester, 32, has already accepted a plea deal in the case against him — one that dropped the most serious charges and allowed him to avoid any prison time.
Attorney Max Richardson said some of the allegations against Lester were misunderstandings but his family wanted to get the case behind them.
“At the end of the day, the family’s concerned about getting [Lester] some counseling,” Richardson said. “Because he’s obviously gotten carried away with his phone.”
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The “fast track” deal struck last week with Gwinnett County prosecutors gave Lester a total sentence of five years, with 30 days in jail and the remainder to be served on probation. Lester was originally arrested Dec. 21, so when the arrangement was finalized on Jan. 23, he had already spent more than 30 days in the Gwinnett County jail.
He was then released.
“If he violates the law or his probation [during the remaining years of his sentence], he could be resentenced for up to 20 years in prison,” Assistant District Attorney Drew Unger, who prosecuted the case, said Wednesday.
The deal involved Lester — who starred on the gridiron at Parkview High School before playing at Auburn from 2004-2008 — entering a plea to one count of unlawful eavesdropping and surveillance; one count of theft by receiving stolen property; and two counts of peeping Tom.
The eavesdropping charge was a step down from the original child pornography charge filed against Lester following a Nov. 6 incident in which he allegedly used his cellphone to film a juvenile male in a bathroom stall at a Dacula-area restaurant.
Richardson said Wednesday that the incident was immature but had been blown out of proportion. Lester — the founder of a company that trains young athletes — had been recording sounds the boy was making in the bathroom because he “thought it was funny,” Richardson argued.
The peeping Tom charges were filed after Lester’s original arrest and tied to a separate incident. Indictments said Lester “did peep under a desk and spied upon and invaded the privacy” of two female students while he was working as a substitute teacher at Dacula High School.
Richardson confirmed Lester had taken cellphone photos of the girls and said he didn’t “condone that,” but added that the girls were “fully clothed.”
The photos were found on Lester’s laptop when police executed search warrants at his home, Richardson said. That laptop belonged to Gwinnett County Public Schools and had not been returned as required, leading to Lester’s theft charge.
GCPS spokesman Bernard Watson said Wednesday that Lester’s “substitute status” was terminated after his arrest in December. The school system only later learned of the incident at Dacula High School, which Watson said allegedly occurred during the 2016-17 school year.
“GCPS conducts background checks on all its employees and substitute teachers before they are hired and allowed in a classroom,” Watson wrote in an email. “GCPS has a zero tolerance policy regarding inappropriate and/or criminal behavior by its employees and when we learn about such behavior, we address it immediately.”
Richardson said Wednesday that Lester “obviously won’t be teaching at any high schools” in the future.
“When all this went down, the primary thing was getting Brad back on the right track,” Richardson said.
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