Testifying during his trial on sex abuse charges yesterday, a former Howard County teacher admitted sending pornographic photos to his teenage accuser but staunchly denied exposing himself to her in his classroom in December 2006.
Joseph Samuel Ellis, 25, testified for 20 minutes yesterday in county Circuit Court on the second day of his trial on charges of sex abuse of a minor, indecent exposure, telephone misuse and two counts of a fourth-degree sex offense. The jury is expected to begin deliberating today.
"I never exposed myself to her," Ellis said. "I'm not calling her a liar. Maybe her memory is a little inaccurate."
Ellis, who taught history and government and was an assistant coach for the football and lacrosse teams at Glenelg High School, could face a maximum sentence of 23 years in prison.
On Monday, Ellis pleaded guilty to one count of displaying obscene materials to a minor. The count stems from six photos Ellis sent to the girl on Dec. 17, 2006.
Yesterday, Ellis said his accuser - a former student who was 17 at the time of the alleged incidents - asked him to send her photographs.
"That was a mistake," Ellis said. "I should never have done it."
When Ellis was arrested Jan. 8, 2007, police said two girls - ages 17 and 16 - told county school officials that Ellis had contacted them repeatedly via text messages. The girls said the messages were sexual in nature. A third girl at the school reported receiving similar messages via her computer from Ellis, police said.
However the jury has heard testimony this week from only one of the accusers. Ellis' lawyer, Gerald Richman, and prosecutor Lisa Broten both declined yesterday to discuss why the charges and the testimony center on only one of Ellis' former students.
The 16-year-old accuser said she met Ellis in a Columbia park during summer 2006 and that he committed a sex offense against her, police said last January. The older accuser - now an 18-year-old college freshman - testified today that Ellis sent up to 25 text messages a day in the time leading up to him exposing himself to her in his classroom and trying to make her touch his genitals in December 2006.
Also yesterday, a female friend of the 17-year-old accuser testified that she witnessed the accuser exchange text messages and phone calls with Ellis, including one in which Ellis asked the two girls to engage in a three-way sexual encounter with him.
Another female friend of the accuser said she witnessed her friend enter Ellis' room for 15 minutes on the day of the alleged indecent exposure and leave visibly shaken.
"She was scared. She was really angry," said the friend, now a college freshman. "When we got into the car she looked at me and almost broke down crying."