Former Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office deputy Frank Huggins has been found guilty on charges of sexual assault and battery for touching a 16-year-old girl in 2016 while acting as her driving instructor.
On Tuesday, Chief Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley rendered two guilty verdicts against Huggins, sentencing him to 10 years of probation and ordering him to register as a sex offender.
Huggins, 76, of Cumming, was first arrested by the sheriff’s office on Oct. 4, 2016, after it was reported to authorities that he touched one of his student’s inner thigh while working as the main driving instructor for Lanier Technical College. Huggins was terminated from his position at the college after the incident was reported.
During the trial on Monday, March 4, Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandra Partridge explained to the court how on Sept. 8, 2016, a month prior to his arrest, Huggins gave a driving lesson to a teen from Hall County and how over the two-and-a-half-hour lesson, he inappropriately touched the girl on her leg, inner thigh, back and neck — all of which was caught on the vehicle’s dash camera.
“She will tell you that his hand kept going closer and closer … and it’s not on the outside of her leg, it’s inside her inner thighs,” Partridge said. “That’s the sexual battery in this case … He had complete and utter control.”
Partridge also said that during the lesson on Sept. 6, Huggins also peppered the girl with “creepy sexual” conversation, commenting on her attractiveness, her boyfriend and telling her that he “would go to the beach with her, if she drove.”
The treatment by Huggins made the girl so uncomfortable that she texted her mother, “HELP” and ended the session early after Huggins took her to his home in Cumming. Huggins’ victim and her mother took the witness stand on Monday and recounted the incident for the court, explaining what led them to seek help from law enforcement.
The girl said on the stand that she began to feel uncomfortable at the beginning of the lesson, when Huggins touched her leg and shoulder while adjusting the steering wheel and telling her about a character in a movie he liked.
She said that she didn’t speak up initially because she hoped it wouldn’t happen again.
“I just thought that it would blow over and nothing would happen again,” the girl said.
During Monday’s proceedings, the two-hour video recording from the vehicle’s dash camera was played in the courtroom.
In the video, Huggins can be seen touching the girl on her arm and leg many times and can be heard making statements to the girl that were previously alleged to be inappropriate by Partridge.
Both attorneys continued to return to the topic of where and how many times Huggins placed his hands on the girl, arguing over the case’s main charge, whether Huggins specifically touched the girl’s inner thigh, rather than elsewhere on her body.
Huggins’ attorney Rafe Banks III made the case that any touching of the girl that Huggins might have done was well within the realm of what is acceptable for a teacher and student, stating that the perceived touching of the girl’s “inner thigh” was Huggins taking control of the wheel or tapping the girl’s leg to indicate turns.
“Driving instructors sometimes have to take control of the steering wheel, it is part of the process,” Banks said. “See if you see what she says happened, because it is not there ... You’re not going to see what the state says happened.”
Banks also countered Partridges statements about Huggins’ “creepy” conversations with the girl, reminding the court that Huggins’ conversation was not part of the charges against his client.
“I get that she may have been uncomfortable but Mr. Huggins is not charged with making her uncomfortable,” Banks said.
In her closing arguments, Partridge furiously attacked Banks’ assertions that from the video tape, the girl did not exhibit signs of being affected by the incident, calling it “the typical reaction” to victims of sexual assault.
“She’s 16 (years) three months old and he’s 70 something, and he’s in control of her life, completely in control,” Partridge said. “I stand here in 2019 and the argument is, ‘She didn’t act like she was being assaulted.’ She didn’t act the way that Mr. Banks believes she should have ... There is no specific way an assault victim acts, there is no specific way that a 16-year-old is supposed to behave when a 70-year-old man, whose got her trapped in a car, is putting his hand on her inner thigh.”
Bagley ultimately sided with the state, announcing that he believed that Huggins had acted inappropriately and had committed the acts that he was accused of.
“I think that Mr. Huggins made some very poor decisions that day, I think he took advantage of a young girl in that vehicle,” Bagley said.
Huggins has been barred from teaching or having authority over any other person.