A Johnston County teacher is fighting for his career and his reputation.
Corinth Holders High School history teacher and wrestling coach James McNamara was in court Friday for the first time, on a charge of indecent liberties with a minor.
His supporters say they're still standing by him.
About 25 students and their families waited and watched for hours in Johnston County Superior Court.
Mike Holly, a wrestler and student, said, "I miss him. I mean, he's such a great leader, a mentor to me and I mean, it just kills me to see him in this position."
The teacher and wrestling coach has been on paid leave since March 7, while the sheriff's office and school district investigated accusations from a 16-year-old girl about "Coach Mac." Those accusations have resulted in a charge of indecent liberties with a student.
Charlie Gray, who is on the wrestling team at the high school, said, "He's helped us become better people. And he holds us to such a high standard. That's why we know he couldn't have done anything wrong."
Wrestling teammates, students and their parents say they still support him.
Mike Grindstaff, the father of a wrestler, said, "There are just thousands of hours that the kids have spent with the coach and we have spent with the team. At no time anytime has anybody ever said Coach Mac has done anything inappropriate."
His son, Blake Grindstaff, said, "I wholeheartedly believe he would not do anything like this."
Blake says they believe that, because they say he's tough on them to make them do the right things.
"I was failing two classes so he kicked me off varsity and I had to work on all my classes and harder in practice," said Blake.
McNamara's mother, who is also a Johnston County teacher, is grateful for the support.
Diana McNamara said, "If it weren't for them, it would just be my family fighting this battle, but I have all them and they are family now. This is my family and they believe in my son."
That belief that will be put to the test in court.
The coach's lawyer asked the judge for a hearing to decide whether there's enough evidence for the case to continue.
The judge agreed to set a probable cause hearing for April 12.
Detectives with the Johnston County Sheriff's Office arrested James Joseph McNamara II of Raleigh Thursday evening. Authorities say McNamara, 25, was charged with one felony count of taking indecent liberties with a student.
The victim was reportedly a 16-year-old female student.
McNamara did not speak during his court appearance, which was attended by dozens of parents and supporters.
On March 7, Johnston County Schools put McNamara, also a history teacher, on administrative leave with pay while school officials conducted a "personnel review of concerns."
As word of McNamara's arrest spread, his supporters convened at a local restaurant.
McNamara's mother also appeared at the gathering defending her son.
"Johnston County has got the fight of their lives on their hands. We will not back down," said Diane McNamara.
She says her son "did not do it," and will eventually prove beyond the shadow of a doubt "that he is innocent."
Following the charges, Johnston County Schools saaid McNamara's employment status with the school remains unchanged.
"The school system is continuing to conduct a confidential review of this situation and continues to cooperate with law enforcement," spokeswoman Terri Sessoms said. "As to any charges against Mr. McNamara, that is a law enforcement issue."
On March 18, parents and students gathered in support of McNamara, many whom described the teacher as "a great guy" and "an awesome person."
"He changed our lives in a lot of ways. He was just an awesome person, just an outstanding coach," junior wrestler Tyler Sigler said at the time.
Bruce Gray, the father of a wrestler, added, "This is just one of the people that you're not going to believe it of, because it just doesn't ... ring true."
McNamara has been a teacher with the Johnston County Schools since Aug. 17, 2010.
1205 Front St., Raleigh
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