LAFAYETTE, Ga. — A grand jury declined to indict a Walker County teacher in two domestic violence cases last week, potentially closing the door on a year of allegations against him.
In all, Robert Sam Forester's former wife accused him of assaulting her four times between April and October 2017. The Walker County Sheriff's Office arrested him on misdemeanor battery charges in the first two cases and felony aggravated assault charges in the second two arrests.
A state court solicitor dropped the first two cases on June 15, telling the Times Free Press that Forester's ex-wife requested the dismissals. On July 10, after reviewing evidence presented by the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit district attorney's office, a grand jury voted against indicting Forester.
Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public, so it's not clear exactly what evidence a prosecutor presented. In Georgia, the district attorney can bring the case to a grand jury a second time if it declines to indict on the first go through. But they don't get a third opportunity.
Grand juries rarely decline to indict a defendant. In the list of "no bills" (cases that weren't indicted) in Walker County in 2018, Forester's two felony cases are listed as "01" and "02," implying they are the first two of the year.
District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin did not return a call or email Wednesday asking what he planned to do with the Forester case. Forester's attorney, David Cunningham, is out of town this week and did not return an email seeking comment. Nobody answered the door when a reporter went to Forester's listed address in LaFayette.
Through the charges, Forester has been in and out of the classroom. He continued to teach at LaFayette High School after the first two charges, filed in April and June 2017. But Superintendent Damon Raines moved Forester to a role in an administrative office after his September arrest, telling the Times Free Press at the time that the move was a "cautious way to move forward until we get more guidance from law enforcement."
The sheriff's office arrested Forester a fourth time in October. But Raines moved him back to the classroom in January, when he taught at Ridgeland High School. In February, some students accused Forester of showing them inappropriate pictures on his phone, but Sheriff Steve Wilson said investigators could not find any proof of the allegations. They did not arrest him.
Still, Forester was placed on family medical leave.
"We have had no contact with the DA's office or the Sheriff's Dept," Raines said in a text message Wednesday. "His status has not changed with us."
Forester's first arrest stemmed from an argument with his former wife when she refused to leave his home, even after a judge ordered her to do so. A neighbor called 911 in April 2017 after hearing them argue. A deputy charged them both with battery after seeing a bite mark on Raines' arm and small red marks on his ex-wife's arm. (A solicitor later dropped her charge, too.)
In June, the sheriff's office arrested Forester after his accuser said he stomped on her arm during an argument. In September, she told investigators he choked her. In October, she said he sliced her arm several times with a box cutter.
In the last case, the investigator wrote in his report that her cuts appeared to be superficial. Forester's shirt was also torn. He told the investigators he had gone to her house to drop off supplies she needed. He said she demanded she have sex with him` and ripped his shirt when he tried to leave.
Cunningham, Forester's attorney, told the Times Free Press last year that his ex-wife was fabricating evidence against him to get him arrested and cost him his job.
"If that's how this system works," he said, "that anybody can just present themselves as a victim and somebody winds up in jail, probably losing his job as a teacher, I'm more than livid."
On Wednesday, Forester's ex-wife said she had not heard about the grand jury's decision.
"I didn't expect any less in this town," she said in a text message. "He has gotten away with everything else he has done...There is nothing I can do."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.