RICHMOND — The case of Lynda Chase, a secretary at Madison Central High School accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a male student, has been waived to a grand jury.
In an odd twist, Chase's attorney, James Baechtold, wants a Madison County grand jury to subpoena Facebook to produce the name and Internet service provider number for the person who created a page that uses Chase's name on the social network site. Baechtold said the page is a fake.
The Facebook page in question contains "derogatory and offensive comments," Baechtold said in court pleadings filed Wednesday. "Quite possibly, the purpose of this account was to intimidate a witness in a legal process" and to harass Chase, Baechtold's pleading says.
Chase, 37, appeared briefly in Madison District Court Wednesday morning for a preliminary hearing. Baechtold entered a plea of not guilty to the one count of third-degree rape and four counts of third-degree sodomy, all Class D felonies. Each count is punishable by one to five years in prison. The allegations involve sexual intercourse and oral sex with the 15-year-old student.
After Wednesday's hearing, Chase's sister, Ginni Chase, defended Lynda, whom she calls "Kelly," in a brief meeting with reporters.
"Within my words, you will find no efforts to vilify the young man in the situation, nor will you find an attempt to rationalize some of the decisions that Kelly may have made," Ginni Chase said. "I don't understand them myself, and I certainly don't condone them.
"However, I would like to give you a glimpse of the Kelly whom I know. That Kelly is the one who reads stories to and colors pictures with my children. That Kelly has been commended time and again for her accurate and circumspect record-keeping, both as an attendance secretary and a statistician. That Kelly has been one of my biggest cheerleaders for as long as I can remember.
"For those of you who have quickly concluded that she is a vicious predator, you are wrong," Ginni Chase said. "Kelly is valuable, she is lovable, she is forgivable. To the family of the young man, I am praying for you during this difficult time. To those in our community and beyond who have grieved with and who have prayed with us, God bless you and thank you. And to Lynda Kelly, my sister, I love you, unapologetically and unconditionally."
Chase is the secretary in charge of attendance at Madison Central, where she has worked for at least 10 years. She also kept statistics for the boys' basketball teams. Chase is suspended but is still employed by the school system, a spokeswoman said last month.
Ginni Chase said her sister is "extremely upset and worried. She's not eating well, she's not sleeping well. This is a situation in which none of us expected to find ourselves."
Baechtold, the defense attorney, said Lynda Chase has been the subject "of some vicious attacks" on sites such as Topix.com.
"Not a shred of evidence has been introduced in court yet," Baechtold said. "They're ready to condemn her and strip her of any due process or any of her rights. It's pretty outrageous."
Baechtold's pleading also requests that the Madison County grand jury allow Lynda Chase to present witnesses and evidence on her behalf. That might include a request to testify on her behalf, the pleading says.
The defendant in a criminal case typically does not appear before a grand jury considering an indictment.
Baechtold said the "fraudulent Facebook page" appeared on Feb. 21 using Chase's name and identifying information, including her photo, without her consent.
"We want the Madison County grand jury to take a look at that and prosecute because it's wrong," Baechtold said.
Chase was released on her own recognizance in part because the alleged crimes were not violent and because the Madison County Detention Center is not equipped to house people with handicaps such as hers. Chase uses a wheelchair because she was paralyzed in a car crash that killed her father and a sister when she was 5 years old. Chase has been ordered not to have contact with Madison Central High School students or any juveniles 15 or older.
Ginni Chase said her sister has never requested special treatment. "She had nothing to do with that decision" for release, Ginni Chase said.