CAMDEN, Ala. (AP) - A woman testified Wednesday that a former longtime state legislator who served as her high school principal kissed her and forced her to touch him in his office when she was a 17-year-old student.
The former student at Wilcox-Central High School in Camden described the November 2010 encounter from the witness stand at James Thomas's trial on a charge of sexual abuse. Opening statements took place in the morning for the trial that's expected to last one or two days.
The woman testified that the principal known for his many years as an educator called her into his private office, asked her about several boys and told her "remember you are mine."
Under questioning by the prosecutor, the woman said Thomas took her hand and placed it on "his private parts." She also said that at one point he grabbed the back of her neck and pulled himself toward her.
"He grabbed my hair and rubbed it," she said.
The Associated Press generally does not name those who say they were sexual abuse victims. The woman, now 19, is a student at an Alabama college.
Thomas was a representative for Wilcox and three other counties in the Legislature for 28 years before his defeat in the 2010 Democratic primary, which took place before the day described by the woman. His familiarity with members of the community was shown during a break in the trial when he stood at the courtroom door and spoke to most of the spectators as they were leaving.
Defense attorney Lewis Gillis said in opening statements that he will prove Thomas never touched the girl and did nothing wrong.
During cross examination, Gillis sought to play up what he considered to be several discrepancies between her testimony and previous statements, including the time of day the she was in Thomas's office.
She said she probably could have run from the room at one point when the door was open and two visitors spoke briefly to Thomas. She said he was fully dressed and she touched the outside of his pants.
The cross examination of the woman was to continue Wednesday before the jury of 11 women and three men.