MANATEE -- A Manatee County judge is considering whether to separate the trial of former school investigator Debra Horne, charged with failing to report child abuse, from the trials of three other school district administrators charged in the Roderick Frazier case.
Horne appeared in court Thursday, along with defense attorney Derek Byrd, to object being listed as a co-defendant along with Robert Gagnon, Gregg Faller and Matthew Kane. A second motion was also filed requesting Horne's trial be handled separately.
Judge Thomas Krug reserved ruling on the motion until Monday. The announcement came late Thursday afternoon after Krug said earlier in court he would rule by the end of the day.
Horne was charged with one felony count of failing to report child abuse Aug. 15 after months of investigation by the Bradenton Police Department and the State Attorney's Office.
Byrd argued in court that Horne was not part of some "common scheme or plan" with Gagnon, Faller, and Kane, and therefore she should not be tried with them. He said Horne is only charged with one felony count of failing to report while the others are also charged with a misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse and a
misdemeanor count of giving false information to law enforcement.
Assistant State Attorney Dawn Buff disagreed saying the reporting law changed in October after the Penn State molestation scandal.
The change in the law caused other persons who knew of sexual abuse and failed to report it prior to that change to now be charged with a misdemeanor and a felony.
"Ms. Horne never denied that she knew of the allegations and she never lied to law enforcement," Buff said.
In the second motion, Byrd expressed concern about co-defendants being able to evoke their right to remain silent if Horne's trial were not separated.
"I want to call these co-defendants as witnesses," Byrd said. "There is information that they have that I think exonerates Mrs. Horne."
Horne, former investigator for the Office of Professional Standards, conducted the initial school district probe of Frazier's alleged misconduct in November.
When the allegations resurfaced in January in a letter written by a former Manatee High School student, Horne again led the school district investigation until she was removed from her position and transferred to an assistant principalship at Prine Elementary.
Horne retired Oct. 14 from the Manatee County School District, the same day the school board was to vote on whether to suspend her without pay, along with Faller, Gagnon, Kane and school district attorney Scott Martin. She had been on unpaid leave since Aug. 7, just a week prior to charges being brought against her.
Martin was not charged with a crime, and has resigned from the district.
The others have until Friday to challenge Superintendent Rick Mills' recommendation they be fired.
Frazier, a former assistant football coach, faces 10 misdemeanor charges related to allegations of improper contact with students and other staff members at Manatee High School.
He has pleaded not guilty and has resigned from the school district.
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.