Oklahoma coach’s lawyer tries to get teen sex case dismissed on constitutionality twist

Cameron Smith
September 7, 2012

The defense lawyer for a former Oklahoma high school basketball coach charged with raping a 16-year-old student has presented a truly novel defense of his client.

Rather than deny a series of incidents comprising statuatory rape occurred, the lawyer is claiming that the sex between his client and the former student was consentual, and legal because the student had passed the age of consent, which is 16 in Oklahoma. Such a legal decision would instantly overrule existing laws in Oklahoma that make it illegal for a teacher to have a consentual relationship with a student.

As reported by the Oklahoman, 33-year-old Tyrone Nash faces 10 total counts -- 5 of second-degree rape and 5 of forcible oral sodomy -- in connection with a series of sexual encounters with a  then 16-year-old at Western Heights (Okla.) High, where Nash served as the school's basketball coach.

Nash's lawyer, David Slane, filed a motion on Wednesday that seeks to overturn a series of existing state statutes that make it illegal for school district employees to engage in a sexual relationship with any student.

"I'm not saying that it's OK for teachers to have sex with students," Slane told the Oklahoma media on Wednesday. "What I'm saying is this statute is poorly written and unconstitutional."

Among the claims Slane plans to use to support his case is the fact that the student involved was never in a class taught by Nash. Rather, she was the student helper for the boys basketball program. Accordingly, that lack of a direct teacher-student relationship is seen as a point of weakness in the case against Nash.

More fundamentally, Slane plans to argue that Nash and his underage paramour had a right to personal privacy since both were technically of age in the state. In fact, Slane can even point to a prior case last spring in Arkansas as precedent for when a teacher and student of legal age had a sexual assault conviction overturned.

"The reason the law is unconstitutional is that if two people are of age of consent, that means they have a constitutional right to privacy, which includes sexual relations," Slane told the Oklahoman.

"[The Arkansas court] basically ruled that the state couldn't prohibit them from having sex. They stuck down the law as it was written because it was too broad."

Whether that statute holds true in Oklahoma today remains a valid question. In the meantime, many across the nation will keep a concerned eye on the proceedings near Oklahoma City, concerned that their childrens' existing defense against in-school sexual predators could slip ever weaker depending on the ruling of a court in the Sooner state.

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