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Ohio teacher accused of rape won’t be sex offender with plea deal, victim says | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey


Colleen Marshall and Mark Feuerborn

UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) — A former Upper Arlington teacher and football coach could have the most serious charges in his case removed in a pending plea deal, according to the victim who accused him.

In June 2022, a former Hastings Middle School student came forward and accused Joel Cutler of sexually assaulting her from 2000 to 2003, leading a Madison County grand jury to indict him. That victim, Essie Baird, spoke publicly on Thursday about the case for the first time with NBC4.


Madison County Municipal Court records showed Cutler originally faced the following charges:

  • Two counts of rape
  • Four counts of sexual battery
  • Three counts of sexual misconduct with a minor

Cutler pleaded not guilty to the charges shortly after being indicted. More recently, Baird said she learned of a proposed plea deal that would reduce Cutler’s charges to a count of child endangerment. A Madison County prosecutor told NBC4 they could not comment on the deal or pending case, but Baird is outraged and said the plea deal would not require Cutler to even register as a sex offender.

“This is a man walking free with no consequence, no requirement to register as a sex offender, no prison time,” Baird told NBC4.

Joel Cutler, a former Upper Arlington teacher and football coach, appears in court. (NBC4 File Photo)

Baird said it all began years ago, when the teacher and football coach gave her attention at a young age, recognizing vulnerabilities.

“I was not the only 12-year-old girl in sixth grade at Hastings Middle School that had a crush on this teacher,” Baird said. “I was bullied. I did not fit in. I did mature physically faster than most girls, but I was made fun of for that fact.”

She noted that Cutler gained trust by becoming very close to her parents. As a 12-year-old girl, she believed she was in a loving relationship with her married teacher. She said over the course of those four years, they engaged in sexual acts both in Franklin and Madison County.

“There is nothing more embarrassing than realizing how taken advantage of you were,” Baird said. “And I can give my 12 to 17-year-old self a lot of compassion.”

Baird told NBC4 It took years of therapy as an adult to acknowledge she had been a child sex abuse victim. Once she came to terms with it, the first person she disclosed the story to was her sister.

“The first thing that we decided as sisters was we’re never telling mom, because it would break her,” Baird said. “Fortunately, my dad had passed away by the time I started to talk about this with family, because he would have taken things into his own hands. But my heart breaks for my mom, really.”

She also confided in a former teacher that she trusted. As a mandatory reporter, however, that person went to Upper Arlington police. Baird then worked with a detective from that agency, who spent two years investigating and gathering evidence. After Cutler’s indictment, it was that same detective who told her about the plea deal.

“The first thing he said was ‘This is the worst day I’ve had in law enforcement up until this date. Did you know that this plea agreement happened?’ And my family and I were blindsided,” Baird said.

Essie Baird, who accused Joel Cutler of sexually assaulting her as a student, speaks with NBC4 in an interview. (NBC4 File Photo)

Victims are required to be notified of plea deals under Marsy’s Law, which went into effect earlier in 2023. But Baird said no one reached out from the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office to consult her about the proposed plea deal. When NBC4 asked the Madison County prosecutor if they had notified Baird about the plea deal, they also declined to comment.

“What is this communicating to other perpetrators, that ‘I can just keep doing this? And I’m going to get off. I’m going to be free,’” Baird said.

The victim said this case could also send a message to other victims.

“That no one cares about you, and you are not protected.”

Madison County Municipal Court records showed Cutler has a plea hearing scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m. The public docket did not show any information related to a proposed plea deal, but it did show Baird’s letter to the judge voicing her opposition to the agreement.



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