Former Murfreesboro City Schools band teacher Lavar Jernigan has appealed his conviction after he was found guilty of six counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. Jernigan was later sentenced to thirty years behind bars which means he will not be released until he is 67 years old. Today, Jernigan is 39 years of age.
In filing the appeal, Jernigan suggested that the trial court in Rutherford County made an error in admitting evidence that showed juror's a notebook containing text messages exchanged between him and the teenage victim. However, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals saw nothing wrong with the notebook being used and affirmed the Rutherford County courts.
Originally, the case started in Lawrence County, Tennessee and later folded over into Rutherford County when Murfreesboro Police Detective Tommy Roberts located the teen victims cell phone.
On the teenagers phone were nude photographs of her that Jernigan reportedly asked her to send. Jernigan was sentenced to two years of probation in Lawrence County for the photographs and claims that the pictures recovered on the phone were tied to the Lawrence County case and not Murfreesboro. He suggested that it would violate double jeopardy rules if he were convicted again in Rutherford County because he was already convicted in Lawrence County. Police saw two different cases though as Jernigan sent the victim nude photos of himself from Murfreesboro.
Looking back to how Jernigan met the teen, she told the courts that she was 13 when they met because he was working with her school band director. She said that at age 16 Jernigan gave the victim his email address and asked her to contact him if she became stressed or needed advice. At age 16 Jernigan asked the teen to meet him at a park where the two sat and discussed her role in the color guard.
Soon after the two met alone at a park, they met before and after events on the MTSU campus. In one incident, the 16-year-old told the courts that the two went into a closet and kissed at MTSU while other color guard members set up to practice.
The victim testified that the two exchanged sexually explicit photos via their cellphones on a regular basis. The messages were eventually exposed when a friend of the victim saw the pictures. A parent then came across the pictures and messages.
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals found that the offenses in Rutherford and Lawrence Counties contained different elements, and therefore, convictions for both offenses do not violate principles of double jeopardy.
On Wednesday, March 15, 2017, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals filed an agreement with the original courts in Rutherford County. Jernigan will now remain in prison until year 2044. He is not eligible for parole.