MANATEE -- Former Manatee County School District investigator Debra Horne, who was charged in the Rod Frazier investigation, has entered a pre-trial intervention program that if she successfully completes, the charges against her will be dropped, according to the State Attorney’s Office.
Horne last year was charged with one felony count of failing to report child abuse after she investigated charges that Frazier, a former assistant football coach at Manatee High School, had inappropriately touched at least one student.
The conditions of Horne’s agreement include that she serve 18 months probation and perform 75 hours of community service.
“If called upon, she will need to testify truthfully against co-defendants,” Assistant State Attorney Dawn Buff said.
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Three other former administrators at Manatee High School face similar charges that they did not properly report allegations against Frazier.
Frazier currently faces 10 criminal charges that he inappropriately touched students and other staff members at Manatee High.
Buff explained why Horne was offered the chance to have the charges dropped.
"She indicated her willingness to participate in the program so we decided to offer it to her," Buff said. "The other three cases are proceeding with discovery."
Horne's attorney, Derek Byrd, said agreeing to the prosecution's offer was "bittersweet."
"We really feel that she was innocent," Byrd said.
There is no admission of guilt by entering into the diversion program. Despite feeling confident she had a strong case, it was decided that it was in her best interest to take the deal," Byrd said.
"It was not worth spending any more money, the prolonged stress and taking the chance at trial," Byrd said. "It is better to get the guaranteed dismissal."
Not many people get offered that chance, he said.
Horne will be eligible for early termination of the program in nine months if she completes all the conditions and does not violate any of those conditions, according to the agreement.
Bryd said he does not know if Horne has any future plans to return to her career in school administration.
"She certainly enjoyed her career in education," Byrd said. "The biggest loss of all this is the loss of her career. Once the case is dismissed she is eligible to have her record expunged."
Steve Valley, spokesman for the Manatee County School District, said the district is not able to comment on the latest development in the case.
"We are not able to comment. It is a bad precedent to set," Valley said.
John Bowen, the former school board attorney, said Horne never deserved to be charged.
"It was a result of hysteria, based on misinformation," Bowen said. "It was a travesty that it ever happened that she was charged."
Bowen also said he thinks it is unfair that Horne has agreed to enter the pre-trial intervention program.
"I don't think it's fair that she has to do anything," Bowen said. "There was no charge for abuse. There was not any criminal activity that was required to be reported."
Bowen said that he does consider Frazier's conduct "inappropriate," and as a result, said the district was planning on firing Frazier.
Frazier resigned from the school district after he was charged.
"Miss Horne was a fantastic investigator who had nothing but the best interest of children in mind," Bowen said.
Bowen said he is not familiar with the facts of other charges in the Frazier case.