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Reports: CMS, Former Band Director Ordered To Pay $10.5M In Sexual Assault Case

Sora Shimazaki

A federal jury has awarded $10.5 million to a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools student who says he was assaulted by a band director at West Charlotte High School in 2011, according to multiple reports.

According to QCity Metro, the verdict was issued late Friday after four days of testimony in the student’s lawsuit against CMS and Duncan Gray, a longtime band director at West Charlotte High School.

The jury ordered CMS to pay $7.5 million and Gray $3 million in what The Charlotte Observer calls the largest civil judgment awarded in memory for a sexual misconduct case in Charlotte.

QCity Metro said the former student, now in his early 20s, testified that the 2011 assault has left him “struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, anger and thoughts of suicide.”

“I’m unstable,” the student said from the witness stand. “As much as I try to make it seem like I have it together, I don’t … I don’t, not in my mind.”

The victim said he joined the West Charlotte band as a freshman and looked up to Gray, according to QCity Metro’s account of his testimony. He said he and Gray sometimes talked on the phone for hours late at night, and he opened up to Gray with questions about homosexuality and faith, asking whether “God would still love me and if I could still be divine and interact with men?”

“Instead of answering that question, he pushed me to not only think that it was OK but think it would be OK with him,” the former student said.

The former student said that during his sophomore year, Gray molested him in the high school’s auditorium, in an assault that included improper touching.

The jury deliberated for about two hours before reaching a decision in the case.

Gray led Johnson C. Smith University’s band from 1986 to 2004, and was also a leader in the music ministry at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, according to QCity Metro.

The Charlotte Observer says CMS suspended Gray in 2011 after a cellphone containing “explicit sexual conversations with one or more West Charlotte students” was found.

Gray resigned from his position in 2016, according to The Observer, the year the was arrested and pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with a student. He was sentenced to 30 months’ probation with “sex offender special provisions.”

Lawyers for CMS indicated they would appeal the decision, QCity Metro reported.

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Jodie Valade has been a Digital News and Engagement Editor for WFAE since 2019. Since moving to Charlotte in 2015, she has worked as a digital content producer for NASCAR.com and a freelance writer for publications ranging from Charlotte magazine to The Athletic to The Washington Post and New York Times. Before that, Jodie was an award-winning sports features and enterprise reporter at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. She also worked at The Dallas Morning News covering the Dallas Mavericks — where she became Mark Cuban's lifelong email pen pal — and at The Kansas City Star. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Master of Education from John Carroll University. She is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan.