Charges against EHS coach dropped

COVINGTON - The state dropped charges against Eastside High School's football coach Wednesday in an alleged mortgage fraud investigation, citing insufficient evidence, according to the DeKalb County District Attorney's office.

On Monday, Jada Hudspeth, public information officer for the DeKalb County District Attorney's office, returned calls from the Citizen and said that DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Michael E. Hancock signed an order Wednesday of nolle prosequi against Joseph Richard "Rick" Hurst.

"Any charges related to this" were dropped, she said.

Hurst turned himself in at the DeKalb County Police Department in late November after the county issued a bench warrant earlier that month following a mortgage fraud investigation; he was charged with theft by taking.

According to an incident report from the DeKalb County Police Department, a mortgage company alleged in November 2005 that Hurst and six other individuals were involved in a four-month-long fraud operation in three counties. The report states that an investigation by the Gwinnett County Police Department revealed that Hurst had purchased five properties from December 2004 to April 2005 with the same appraiser and closing attorney in DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb counties.

"Mr. Hurst signed documents which contained misrepresentations, and those documents were used to further the fraudulent activity. However, as the State interviewed witnesses in preparation for trial, including a lengthy interview with Mr. Hurst himself, it became apparent that Mr. Hurst was not a knowing participant in the fraud," according to the order. "Therefore the State would not have sufficient evidence of criminal intent to proceed against Mr. Hurst."

Hudspeth said no other person involved in the investigation has entered a guilty plea and their cases are still pending.

The state "may call (Hurst) for a witness (for their cases) ... but he did not strike a deal with the state," she said.

Hurst, who was hired by the Newton County School System on July 2, 2005, works as a biology teacher and head football coach at EHS. He did not return a call from the Citizen as of press time Monday.

"I learned a valuable lesson not to trust anybody with your name or credit," he said in December. "If I knew I was doing anything illegal, I wouldn't have done anything."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.