Former Country Day School teacher, coach Brett Naff enters plea deal on child sex charge

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L to R: Defense attorney Bruce Gardner with his client, Brett Naff (Photo: Gregg Stone/WHNT News 19)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Former Country Day School teacher and coach Brett Naff will not face prison time after pleading guilty Monday morning to a count of second-degree sodomy. The case that has seen a number of reversals with accusations that date back to 2004.

He was sentenced to 15 years – split to reflect time served – so he will be on probation for four years, according to Madison County Assistant District Attorney Tim Gann. He is required to register as a sex offender, complete a sex offender treatment program and pay $20,000 in restitution.

Gann said the prosecution was satisfied with today’s plea agreement and sentence.

“I am very pleased with the outcome of the case, considering the rulings that were made by the Court of Appeals limiting the evidence we could use in a new trial,” Gann said. “That would’ve make it more difficult to try, and get a conviction, since the case is now almost 12 years old.

“The victim is very pleased with the outcome, she is ready to move on with her life.”

Naff was convicted in 2014 of two counts of sodomy in the first degree and sentenced to 20 years in prison. His direct appeals were denied.

The case began with a former student’s accusations against Naff, seven years after the alleged incidents took place. The former student claimed Naff forced her to perform sexual acts with him from 2004 to 2007.

The accuser testified Naff forced her to perform sexual acts beginning in 2004. She said it began when she was 11 and continued until she graduated from 8th grade in 2007.  She claimed the incidents took place in a room used by the soccer team, in a school van, on trips and around soccer practices.

The defense maintained the accuser was lying and said her testimony was contradicted by a number of witnesses.

While Naff’s direct appeals were denied, he filed a Rule 32 petition, a post-conviction appeal alleging constitutional violations, and through that petition he was granted in a new trial. That ruling came in March after Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall found Naff received inadequate representation during his trial.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals had denied Naff’s appeal, but in its ruling the court cited the defense’ failure to object to character evidence against Naff, presented by prosecutors.  His trial attorney Bruce Gardner filed an affidavit as part of the Rule 32 petition telling the court he’d been constitutionally ineffective in representing Naff.

The new trial had been set for September.

Today’s plea agreement followed claims by Gardner and other attorneys, including former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, that evidence presented by the prosecution should not have been allowed, or should have been vigorously objected to by Gardner.

Cobb focused on Gardner’s failure to object to “character evidence” presented by witnesses during the trial that described Naff dealing harshly or cruelly with other Country Day students.  She said the “vast majority” of the “bad acts” testimony should not have been before the jury at all, that it was highly improper and inadmissible.

The prosecution had argued the testimony concerning alleged incidents of bullying of students by Naff was necessary to highlight the environment the students were in, and establish the conditions for a charge of sodomy by forcible compulsion – by an authority figure.

Several former students and their parents also testified on Naff’s behalf, praising his dedication, teaching and coaching.

Naff’s appeal and the current criminal case were handled by Dothan-based attorneys Dustin Fowler and Stephen Etheredge,  Birmingham-attorney J.D. Fowler and Jake Watson of Huntsville.