Columbus courts: Judge denies former CHS teacher James Cypert’s request to have guilty plea tossed out

Former Columbus High School teacher James Cypert, who’s already served a year in prison on convictions of sexual assault against a person in custody, had his request to have his guilty pleas tossed out denied on Friday.

Cypert’s attorney said his client will appeal the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Cypert argues in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus that his attorney at the time of his late 2007 guilty plea, now U.S. Magistrate Stephen Hyles, didn’t tell him that a plain-text reading of the law stated consent of the student was a defense, noting that it’s undisputed that all sexual contact was consensual.

His current attorney, William Mason, said a June 2009 decision of the state Supreme Court — Chase v. State — states that consent is a defense in cases of sexual assault against someone in custody, such as a teacher/student relationship.

On Friday, Cypert testified that had he known that consent could have been used as a defense, he likely would have gone to trial.

“Because I had a defense,” he said. “I had something to argue.”

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