Friday, January 19, 2018
News Roundup

With DUI case resolved, Hernando teacher awaits word on whether he will keep his job

BROOKSVILLE — A Hernando County teacher charged with driving under the influence earlier this year has resolved his case. Now school district officials will decide whether Jesse T. Mockler, who has a prior arrest record, should keep his job.

Mockler, 36, pleaded no contest last week to DUI and refusing to submit to a breath test. County Judge Kurt Hitzemann adjudicated the Powell Middle School teacher guilty and sentenced him to one year of probation. He must also complete 50 hours of community service, and his driver's license was revoked for six months.

Mockler must submit records to the school district showing the disposition of the case, said Heather Martin, executive director of business services.

"Once the information is reviewed, the superintendent will determine what employment action will be taken, if any," Martin said.

Mockler would have the right to a hearing if superintendent Lori Romano recommends to the School Board that he be fired.

Mockler's latest misdemeanor convictions alone likely would not prompt the district to fire him. But the totality of an employee's criminal record can be taken into account when deciding what disciplinary action to take, Martin said.

In 2007, Mockler was charged with DUI, drug trafficking and possession of illegal drugs after a deputy found 12 oxycodone pills in his pocket. School officials suspended him after the felony drug charge, but Mockler returned to his job after accepting a plea deal that averted a felony conviction.

In May 2012, Mockler was charged with misdemeanor battery and criminal mischief after admitting to punching his girlfriend in the arm and smacking her in the face, records show. Mockler remained in the classroom, and the charges were eventually dropped after the woman asked prosecutors not to move forward with the case.

The more recent DUI arrest came early on the morning of Feb. 3, after a Florida Highway Patrol trooper stopped Mockler for speeding on U.S. 19. Mockler failed field sobriety exercises and showed signs of "extreme impairment," the trooper wrote in the report. Belligerent and profane, Mockler admitted he was high and said that he was "an alcoholic and needed help," the report said.

Mockler could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Michael Mastrogiovanni, did not return messages.

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