Sexual battery charges against former Upward Bound mentor dropped
Published: Monday, October 10, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 01:10
Sexual battery charges against former Upward Bound (UB) mentor Herron Gaston were dismissed Wednesday.
Mark Cox, a spokesman for the State Attorney's office, said the charges were dropped after it was revealed during depositions that Gaston was not in a "custodial type of position over the victim" at the time of the incident.
"The defense then filed a motion to dismiss the case based off of that, and the judge granted the dismissal," he said.
Without the custodial position, Cox said the alleged sex that occurred between Gaston, who was 23 at the time, and the victim, who was 17 at the time, was not against the law. He didn't know if the state would look to pursue other charges against Gaston at this time.
However, even though the charges against Gaston are dismissed, W. Robert Sullins, dean of undergraduate studies, said changes to the UB program as a result of the case have affected USF and those attending the program.
Sullins said the UB program completes background checks on all employees, requires UB employees to complete moral conduct forms, went from a three to five-day training program, has implemented anonymous suggestion boxes in the residential halls, offers residential counselors while students are in classes or are participating in activities and encourages all UB students to share their experiences with UB staff.
"A lot of this was already going on, it was just more informal," he said. "It's been a much more formal, tightened assurance that we're following all those guidelines and making sure we're doing the right things."
"I'm sure there were a few (parents) who were concerned and expressed concern, and a few who may have said, ‘We don't want our children to be involved in that program,' but we don't know of that to be the case."
Sullins said about 130 students attend the UB program each year, and he still believes there are "a lot of students and parents who want their students to have these experiences."