HICKORY, N.C. - A high school cafeteria worker accused of preying on teenage girls pleaded guilty Tuesday after one hour of testimony.
The plea happened in a Hickory courtroom minutes after a teenager told the jury defendant Quentin Abernathy had called and texted her over the weekend asking her not to show up for court.
The prosecutor was finishing his questioning when the teenager mentioned the recent texts and phone calls.
The teenager showed the prosecutor and the jury the texts on her cellphone.
"What he would do is give kids free food," said Michael Van Buren, assistant district attorney.
Van Buren described to the jury how Abernathy befriended students, getting their cell numbers and Facebook pages so he could start relationships with several teenagers.
One of those students testified Tuesday how Abernathy encouraged her to skip classes and meet her at his apartment and a park.
The teen said he touched her inappropriately.
"It just wasn't right," the teenager said. "It didn't feel right to me at all. And then it really didn't feel right to me after I found out how old he was. I felt nasty. I felt like he could have been my daddy."
But the most damaging testimony came when the teenager described getting texts and phone calls from Abernathy less than 48 hours before the trial started.
In court, prosecutors retrieved the teenager's cellphone and had her read the text message to the jury.
"You don't have to show next week but yea, get back at me," the text read.
The defendant covered his face as the teenager described the messages. Within minutes, police had two new warrants for tampering with a witness and obstruction of justice.
Abernathy then decided to end the trial pleading guilty to first-degree kidnapping and indecent liberties with a child.
He addressed the judge before sentencing.
"I want to apologize to her and to the Hickory city schools," Abernathy said.
The judge sentenced Abernathy to nine years in prison and five years of probation. He will also have to register as a sex offender when he is released.