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Teen testifies in child seduction case against North Newton substitute teacher

BrandHooks | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

Brandon Hooks | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 6, 2014 6:43AM



CROWN POINT — Testimony continues Wednesday in the case of a North Newton Junior/Senior High School substitute teacher and assistant coach accused of having sex in 2011 with a 16-year-old student.

Brandon S. Hooks, 28, of Lake Village, is facing six months to three years in prison on each of two felony counts of child seduction, alleging he had sex with the victim when she was at least 16 and younger than 18, and fondling the victim to satisfy his sexual desires or her sexual desires. If found guilty, Hooks also would have to register as a sex offender.

Prosecutor Veronica Gonzalez said Hooks conducted an illicit relationship with the victim via cellphone and text messaging, sending explicit text messages and nude pictures back and forth with the teen. They say on two occasions, Oct. 28 and Nov. 11 or 12, when the victim snuck out of her mother’s Hobart home while her mother was sleeping, that Hooks took the teen to the Red Roof Inn in Merrillville where they had sex.

Gonzalez said the victim, now 18, does not deny any of it and says the relationship was consensual.

The problem, Gonzalez said, is with Hooks’ job. The age of consent in Indiana is 16. However, when the adult is a child care worker in a position of trust, such as a teacher, the age of consent is 18.

“She couldn’t consent because of her position,” Gonzalez said.

Defense attorneys Kevin Kolbus and Mark King said whether or not Hooks meets the definition of child care worker for the purposes of the statute is up to the jury to decide. Kolbus argued the victim was a teen with a crush on her teacher who was suspended from school for talking about a sexual relationship with him that was determined to be untrue.

“If sex occurred, and he’s not a teacher as defined by the statute, there is no crime. If sex did not occur, there is no crime,” King argued.

Prosecutors worked their way through the bulk of their witness list, spending the majority of the day with the victim. Hooks sat solemn-faced and looked straight ahead during the testimony. His family sat in the gallery intently watching the proceedings.

The young woman remained calm and unemotional during testimony that included her reading a log of sexually explicit texts sent between the two on Nov. 27, and the identification of nude pictures of Hooks found on her cellphone.

She said the texts on Nov. 27 were of the same nature of texts made back and forth between the pair before each of the two times they met for sex.

King used his cross examination to go through Hooks’ AT&T phone records for the time period. The victim could not identify her phone number from the call or text logs on Hooks phone records for either day of their alleged sexual encounter.

It was the texts on Nov. 27 that were discovered by the victim’s father that day, bringing the affair to light. He testified the next day he went to the school to speak to the principal, who in turned called the Newton County Sheriff’s Department. He testified he also went to Merrillville Police, since the incidents allegedly occurred at the Red Roof Inn there.

The prosecution will continue to call witnesses Wednesday with Lake Superior Court Judge Samuel Cappas presiding.

The defense declined to comment whether Hooks would take the stand in his own defense.



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