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Eastside coach pleads not guilty

COVINGTON - The head coach of Eastside High School's football team pleaded not guilty to theft by taking surrounding a mortgage fraud investigation in a DeKalb County Superior Court on Monday morning.

Joseph Richard "Rick" Hurst turned himself into the DeKalb County Police Department on Nov. 24 after DeKalb County issued a bench warrant Nov. 13 following a mortgage fraud investigation.

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 situation 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 until April 2005 with the same appraiser and closing attorney in DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb counties.

The police department still is investigating the case, but charged Hurst and the others with theft by taking in connection with the incidents.

Hurst, who was hired by the Newton County School System on July 2, 2005, and serves as a biology teacher and head football coach at EHS, said in early December that he looks forward to clearing his name. He pleaded not guilty Monday morning before DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Michael E. Hancock.

"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."

Jada Hudspeth, public information officer for the DeKalb County District Attorney's office, said Tuesday that no court date has been set yet in the case.

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