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Ex—teacher guilty of sexual assault

Ex—teacher guilty of sexual assault

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A former Iola High School band director accused of dating a 15-year-old ex-student is now a twice-convicted sex offender.

Jurors announced the guilty verdicts in 28-year-old William Benjamin Watson's sexual assault of a child trial Thursday afternoon following 12 hours of deliberation that spanned two days.

The group -- which had spent the night sequestered at an area hotel after failing to reach a verdict Wednesday -- was sent home by District Judge J.D. Langley about 3:30 p.m., immediately after the verdict was read. Jurors are expected to return at 9 a.m. Friday to begin hearing evidence for Watson's punishment.

Watson could face up to 20 years in prison for each of the second-degree felony charges.

The educator was working at a Nacogdoches-area high school when he was arrested last January in connection with the approximately eight-month-long relationship with the teen. Watson declined to testify during the trial, but defense attorneys Andrea Kolski and Heather Harrison Hall described the teen as a Lolita who attempted to lure Watson into a relationship with the help of her mother.

They dismissed his taped confession to police as coerced and illegal.

Prosecutors Brian Baker and John Brick argued that Watson, who met the girl while she was attending Iola High School, abused a position of trust. There was nothing wrong with the way the police conducted their interview, they said, adding that it was ridiculous to blame an inexperienced 15-year-old with a crush for a sexual relationship with an adult.

About a dozen supporters sat behind Watson on Thursday as the jury's decision was announced.

Prosecutors later indicated to the judge that their presentation of evidence during the punishment hearing would be short. The defense attorneys, however, said they have a long roster of people who will be testifying on Watson's behalf.

? Craig Kapitan's e-mail address is craig.kapitan@theeagle.com.

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