Substitute teacher pleads innocence in drowning death of teen, 14

Feb. 12, 2014 at 3:50 PM

EASTPOINTE, Mich., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- A Michigan substitute teacher pleaded not guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a student who drowned under his supervision.

Prosecutors allege Johnathan Lamonte Sails, 25, was not certified as a lifeguard when 14-year-old KeAir Swift sank to the bottom of the East Detroit High School pool in November, the Detroit News reported.

Sails, who was acting as a pool monitor, was not in a swimming suit at the time and was not close enough to the pool to monitor the students, prosecutors say.

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith charged Tuesday that Sails was sitting in the bleachers when students told him Swift was struggling in the water. He allegedly told them Swift was just fooling around.

Sails then walked to the pool area where he realized the teen was in trouble, Smith said. Rather than immediately jumping into the water, however, he ran into a locker room and changed into his swimsuit. He was unable to pull the boy from the pool, and Swift was finally removed by the school's vice principal, who jumped into the water dressed in a suit.

Emergency personnel revived Swift, but he was placed on life support at the hospital and later died.

Swift, who lived in Detroit, was taking part in a three-week beginners swimming class, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Prosecutors charge Sails misrepresented his qualifications for the job. In a statement Tuesday, District Superintendent Joanne Lelekatch said Sails was an employee of an outside contractor.

Sails, a physical education substitute teacher, has a master's class and is not a danger to society, his attorney, Robert Leonetti, told Chief Judge Carl Gerds in requesting bond.

Gerds set bond at $25,000 under the condition that Sails not seek employment for which he was not qualified.

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