Acker pleads guilty to sexual abuse

Daniel Acker Jr. is led out of the Shelby County Courthouse by Shelby County Sheriff's Office deputies after pleading guilty to eight counts of sexual abuse May 3. (Reporter Photo/Wesley Hallman)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Daniel Acker Jr., a longtime Alabaster teacher, will serve at least 17 years in prison after he pleaded guilty May 3 to eight counts of sexually abusing underage girls during his teaching tenure.

The guilty plea came a little more than a month after Acker, 49, pleaded not guilty to the charges. The plea came at the Shelby County Courthouse before presiding St. Clair County Judge James Hill Jr., who took over the case after all Shelby County judges recused themselves from the case.

During the hearing, a short-haired, clean-shaven Acker wore ankle and wrist shackles and an orange Shelby County Jail jumpsuit.

Acker was previously indicted on eight counts, including two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and six counts of sexual abuse of a child younger than 12 years old.

“In Alabama, anyone sentenced to a life sentence may be released after 12 years. Under this sentence, the defendant must serve 17 years before he can be released,” St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor, who prosecuted the case after Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens recused himself, wrote in a press release.

For six of the seven counts, Acker received sentences of 17 years in jail apiece. For two of the seven counts, he received sentences of 10 years apiece.

The sentences, which total 122 years, will run concurrently, meaning Acker will serve 17 years in prison before he is released. After he is released, he must register as a sex offender and must complete 10 years of electronic monitoring.

By pleading guilty, Acker waived his right to a jury trial and his right to appeal.

The Alabaster Police Department arrested Acker in early 2011 after one of Acker’s former students approached police and reported she had been molested while in his fourth-grade class at Thompson Intermediate School.

Although he retired from teaching in May 2009, Acker was employed as a substitute bus driver with Shelby County Schools as recently as a week prior to his arrest on Jan. 4, 2012.

During the May 3 hearing, Minor detailed the eight counts Acker pleaded guilty to. The counts involved several incidents of Acker fondling young girls’ breasts and genitals in his classroom at Thompson Intermediate School, one incident of Acker placing a fourth-grade girl’s hand “on his penis” during a school trip to the Shelby County 4-H center and incidents of Acker touching a girl’s buttocks while he was letting her off the school bus he was driving. Minor also detailed an incident during which Acker traveled to one of his students’ houses in 1991, where he molested her on a couch.

After Minor detailed the counts, Acker briefly disputed some details of the charges, such as touching students’ bare genitals and breasts.

“You’re either going to plead guilty because you’re guilty, or you’re not going to plead at all,” Hill said shortly before Acker said he was guilty of the eight charges.

Police previously said Acker, who is the son of Shelby County Commissioner Dan Acker Sr., confessed to molesting more than 20 girls during his 25-year teaching tenure in Alabaster.