An ex-teacher and coach from Charleston who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for having sex with a 12-year-old girl in 2004 could get a new trial.
On Wednesday, the South Carolina Court of Appeals granted Mark Vail, 35, a new trial. The high court reversed a decision by the post conviction relief court that denied Vail a new trial in 2011.
Vail’s attorneys argued that during his trial in 2005 in Charleston County, his attorney at the time did not object to what they called hearsay testimony by the victims’ family members about sexual encounters the victim had described to them.
An opinion issued by the S.C. Court of Appeals states that Vail’s then-attorney’s lack of objection to certain statements made by those witnesses was “highly prejudicial and cumulative and affected the outcome of the trial.”
One of Vail’s attorneys, Travis Dayhuff of Columbia, said they were pleased with the court’s order but were not prepared to make further comment.
The S.C. Attorney General’s Office can appeal that order for a new trial. They are currently considering that option, according to their spokesman Mark Powell.
Vail is currently serving the remainder of his sentence in the S.C. Department of Corrections. He is expected to be released on July 13.
Vail, a former First Baptist Church School teacher and coach, declared innocence before and after a jury found him guilty of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and lewd act on a minor.
Vail was accused of having sex with a 12-year-old student at his James Island home beginning in 2003. During the trial, Vail’s attorneys argued the girl’s story was a fabrication.
Vail taught physical education and math to students in grades seven through nine and coached basketball and football at the Meeting Street school for 18 months.
He was arrested in January 2004 after the girl’s parents discovered the relationship through her cell phone records. During the trial, the victim testified that the relationship was consensual. Prosecutors in the trial argued that it still amounted to unlawful sex with a minor.
Read more in Thursday’s edition of The Post and Courier.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.