PARIS — Seconds after she was acquitted on a charge of first-degree sexual abuse, high school teacher Kimberly Fryman looked away from the judge and smiled.
"It's been 16 months of hell," Fryman, 52, said after Wednesday's verdict.
She embraced her husband, Larry, and a few friends who testified on her behalf. Her eyes watered as she prepared to leave Bourbon Circuit Court, where the three-day trial ended after a jury deliberated for nearly three hours.
Fryman said afterward that she had been traumatized and would be frightened to set foot in a classroom again. The veteran teacher said she might get a part-time job eventually, but she doesn't plan to choose a career that involves people younger than 30.
Fryman, who has spent 24 years with the Bourbon County school district, said she had planned to retire in three years when rumors surfaced tying her to an inappropriate relationship with a student.
The Herald-Leader does not generally identify people who allege sexual abuse.
Fryman's accuser said during testimony Monday that Fryman performed oral sex on him before school on Oct. 30, 2008. He was a student at the Continuous Learning Center, a small building near the high school that provides education for students with behavior issues.
The teenager said Fryman wanted to have sex with him the following day, Oct. 31, her birthday.
The boy, 16, said he became uncomfortable with the situation after she performed oral sex on him, and he did not want to take the relationship any further.
Prosecutors said records of text messages and phone calls support the boy's story. There were hundreds of text messages sent between Fryman and the boy leading up to Oct. 30.
The teenager said he was "weirded out" after the incident, and there were three unanswered text messages from Fryman to the boy later that day, Jessamine County Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Lockridge told jurors.
Fryman sent an e-mail to one of the 16-year-old's friends on her birthday, asking "what's the "deal" with her accuser.
Prosecutors say Fryman wanted sex from the boy, and he wouldn't speak to her. But Fryman said that e-mail was in regards to the boy's bad behavior in school.
In her testimony Tuesday, Fryman denied that the text messages were of a sexual nature, but in recorded police interviews that were played during the trial she told police they were sexual. Police were not able to obtain the content of the messages.
There also were text messages between Fryman and a second male student who was not involved in the case.
"She was enjoying getting this attention from these two young men," Lockridge said.
Defense attorney Richard Rawdon of Georgetown said prosecutors spent a lot of time discussing text messages, phone calls and an exposure incident, but the case wasn't about those things. Rawdon told jurors there was no evidence that Fryman subjected the boy to sexual contact.
Fryman said the boy might have made up the story about oral sex because she threatened to report him for being out of control after an incident on Friday, Nov. 7, 2008.
Fryman said during testimony Tuesday that she walked into a room that Friday, and the boy had exposed himself. She said he grabbed her hand and she touched what she assumes was his penis. Fryman said she had planned to report the boy for being out of control, not for exposing himself, but she was busy that afternoon and was out sick the following Monday and Tuesday. Fryman said she did not plan to report the teenager for exposing himself because she was afraid her husband, a former law enforcement officer, would hurt him.
An investigation started at the school while Fryman was out sick, and she was called to speak with the school resource officer when she returned to work the following Wednesday. She did not tell the school resource officer or Kentucky State Police, who interviewed her later, about the exposure incident. Fryman told police about the Nov. 7 incident, but prosecutors said she first told police she left the room immediately and then told them the boy grabbed her hand.
Fryman said she did not initially report the incident because she was in shock, she did not want her husband to find out and she would have had to call school officials in front of her other students that day.
"The two of them were trying to keep a lid on this thing," Lockridge said.
He said the boy initially denied sexual involvement with his teacher, but his statement was consistent after he decided to tell the truth.
After the verdict, Lockridge said that the jury had decided and that it was time to move on to the next case. Rawdon said he always knew Fryman was not guilty.