A former Hamilton Schools assistant principal will spend Christmas in the Butler County Jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge.
Kevin Kernohan, 42, of Monroe, who is free on his own recognizance bond, was charged with the fifth-degree felony in May after a school resource officer searched Kernohan’s office at Brookwood Elementary and found “a white crystal like substance” that tested positive as crystal methamphetamine “inside the middle right hand drawer” of a desk, according to court documents.
On Thursday, Kernohan pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted aggravated possession of drugs, a first degree-misdemeanor, in Butler County Common Pleas Judge Michael Oster’s courtroom. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 18o days in jail.
Defense attorney Matthew Fritsch told the judge Kernohan has a master’s degree and spent 20 years of his life building a career in teaching and coaching.
“He made an impact on countless children and parents,” Fritsch said. “What happened on May 10 of this year, I am sure came as a shock to those around him.”
Kernohan knows he let down students, parents, community, family and friends, Fritsch said, adding that while the amount of drugs found in the desk drawer was “essentially dust,” his client breached his position of trust.
The defense attorney said Kernohan has gone through months of treatment and has succeeded during the past 6½ months, with more the 50 negative screenings for drugs.
Kernohan told the judge: “I can’t apologize enough.”
“I worked endlessly for 20 years to create a positive legacy for coaching, teaching and administration and with one severe lapse in judgment I lost it all …. I let down the students, my family, Hamilton City Schools, myself, my parents and my family and I will work the rest of my life to try to regain the trust of those who believe in me and care about me most,” he said.
Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress told the judge police interviewed school officials and teachers and there was never any indication that Kernohan was under the influence of drugs on school grounds and has no past criminal convictions, but also noted he had violated his position of trust. The amount of methamphetamine found in Kernohan’s desk was .02 grams.
Oster, who earlier this year denied Kernohan’s request for treatment in lieu of conviction, sentenced him to three years probation and 17 days in the Butler County Jail beginning Dec. 21. As part of the plea, he has also agreed not to renew his teaching license.
“That is the time when kids are out of school. That is when there are things to be done. As your position of trust was inside a school, my hope for you is that rather than throwing away the key, hopefully rather than throwing away the positive things you have started to turn around, those 17 days can be a time of reflection for you,” Oster told Kernohan.
After his arrest, Kernohan was was placed on leave then resigned from his $68,368-a-year job.