A defense attorney for a former Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district counselor accused of repeatedly having sex with a student told a jury Wednesday that there was an “overwhelming lack of evidence” in the case.
Andrea Townsend of Fort Worth noted that prosecutors had no phone records, no text messages, no video, no social media and no DNA that showed Shannon Hathaway and the student were together.
“The lies that were told spun out of control,” Townsend told the Tarrant County jury of eight men and four women Wednesday morning. “Disgruntled students have told a story not backed by evidence.”
Townsend, Steve Gebhardt and Chip Lewis of Houston are Hathaway’s defense attorneys.
On Wednesday morning, the former school counselor repeatedly pleaded not guilty to eight counts of having an improper relationship with a student as her trial began in the 297th Criminal District Court in Fort Worth.
Hathaway, 37, smiled at her friends and family in the courtroom before opening statements.
But a prosecutor in his opening statement told the jury that Hathaway picked the perfect victim, a struggling student who had repeated several grades in the HEB school district.
Hathaway jumped in to help the family, befriending the student’s sister, giving them both rides to school and hanging out with the family, the prosecution said.
“She confessed to him that he was handsome,” Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Bill Vassar said. “He tells her she’s pretty.”
Peter Gieseking is the other prosecutor in the case.
At some point in late 2016, Hathaway and the then 17-year-old student had sex several times, prosecutors said. The former student is now 22 years old.
Vassar said that the relationship ended in 2017 when the student’s mother caught Hathaway and her son in a bedroom at the family’s Euless home.
Hathaway had spent the night, and the student’s mother was leaving for work that morning, according to prosecutors.
The mother, who was the first witness called by prosecutors, said she went to enter a guest bedroom, cracked the door and saw her son on a bed. But she was unable to enter the room because someone was inside pushing back, she said.
The mother testified that she finally got into the room and discovered Hathaway standing behind the door, dressed in tiny shorts and a muscle shirt.
“She said she was there with my son trying to help him out,” the mother said. “It was very awkward because I knew something inappropriate had happened. Her face was flushed.”
The mother ordered Hathaway to leave and later told her son that what went on in the family’s home was not acceptable.
Hathaway is accused of having sex with the ninth-grade student nearly a dozen times at her Keller home and his home in Euless.
His sister told authorities that during the 2016-2017 school year, Hathaway would spend a lot of time with her brother, according to the warrant obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2018.
School district officials became aware of Hathaway’s relationship with the student when the teen’s sister informed school administrators of it on May 2018, according to the warrant.
In May 2018, Bedford police investigators contacted the then 17-year-old boy and asked him about his relationship with Hathaway, according to the affidavit.
The 17-year-old told investigators that while he was a student at Harwood Junior High, he had sex with Hathaway two or three times at her home and about eight times at his home in Euless. He said it was consensual.
Hathaway resigned as counselor in June 2018, the same month she was arrested.