MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — An employee of Muskegon Heights public schools charged with sexually abusing a minor said the case “is not who I am.”
Zolton Vines, 31, was arraigned Friday on a count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a child between the ages of 13 and 16. A plea of not guilty was entered in his behalf.
Asked if he had any questions about the proceedings, Vines said he didn’t.
“I’ve never been in any trouble before,” he told the judge. “I don’t know who all can hear me, but this is not who I am, not this type of person. …And I’m just begging, I don’t want to do any time. Probation stuff, whatever you got, I’ll deal with it. But I just ain’t never been through nothing like this before in my life. I already had a mental breakdown-“
At that point, the public defender assigned to represent Vines at the arraignment interrupted and advised him to stop talking.
“It’s not helpful for you,” the attorney said. “I want you to stop talking until we have a chance to chat.”
Police said they were informed Wednesday that Vines had had sexual contact with a minor. There is video circulating on social media that allegedly shows him engaged in sexual activity with a girl who was then 15. In court, the judge said it happened between June and late December of last year.
Vines was booked into the county jail Thursday, online records show.
He works at Muskegon Heights Public Schools Academy. His father said Vines has been placed on administrative leave from his jobs as a security guard, junior varsity basketball coach and middle school track coach.
The superintendent says the minor involved in the case is not a student within that district, but prosecutors indicated at arraignment that the minor was a student at the school where Vines worked.
“When you’re talking about this type of activity and you’re talking about someone who has a position of authority in a school, regardless of whether the other individual involved is part of the school district or not, it causes some concern,” Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson said.
Hilson said anyone with information should call police. Muskegon Heights detectives can be reached at 231.733.8900.
Outside the courtroom before the arraignment, Vines’ father Leonard Vines told reporters the allegations were “doctored up” and suggested his son had been “taken advantage of.”
He said his son was not having an inappropriate relationship with anyone who is underage.
“…He’s a good guy and he got caught up with social media and these girls, what have you, and there’s no truth to the matter on these underaged things,” Leonard Vines said. “So we’ll let the court system handle it and I’ll be supportive to whatever the deal is.”
“He’s taking it kind of hard,” he said of his son, who he described as a “nice, passive guy.”
Leonard Vines questioned the video, saying people can alter video and that it doesn’t show faces.
“You never see no girl. You just hear voices,” he said.
He said he trusted the truth would come out as the case moves forward.
Before arraignment, Zolton Vines asked the judge if he could see his parents. The judge denied that request, saying there was not a bailiff in the courtroom to manage the situation.
Vines’ bond was set at $100,000 cash or surety. If he posts 10% of that bond and is released, he must wear an electronic tether and stay away from minors and schools. He is expected back in court on June 15 and June 22 for his next hearings. If convicted, he could spend up to 15 years in prison.
—News 8’s Susan Samples contributed to this report.