According to the indictment, Merck was accused of engaging in “sexual contact by having sexual intercourse” with the student “who the accused knew and should have known was a student enrolled at Chestatee High School” between September-November 2016.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office said the case involved a 16-year-old girl.
Assistant District Attorney Harold Buckler talked about how he was “incredibly well thought of” in the community, including having a street sign named for him outside of the school.
Buckler said Merck and the girl became friends on Facebook and started with innocent conversation that became more flirtatious, with Merck eventually sending the girl “romantic” songs from artists they mutually enjoyed.
“And all the while, judge, that this began, the defendant was her teacher and was the director of her band, which again was to a very great extent her whole world,” Buckler said.
The girl discussed with law enforcement “that she was at the very beginning deeply, deeply uncomfortable given the differences in, frankly, power between the two,” Buckler said, “She would later say that she felt like the defendant was able to get away with whatever he wanted to do,”
Buckler read from a statement provided by the girl, who recommended jail time. “It is unacceptable for a teacher, an adult, to manipulate, lie to, exploit and pressure an underaged minor under his own care into a sexually abusive relationship...”. She also called it unacceptable for the community to “support, protect, justify and defend that teacher” while blaming and bullying the victim.
Defense Attorney Blake Poole called an extensive list of witnesses including his Pastor to attest to Merck’s character, saying they believed that Merck was not a risk to the community.
The witnesses asked Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller for mercy, as they believed Merck has already lost so much in his life and has admitted to his wrongdoing.
Phil Carpenter testified he met Merck when Carpenter became the pastor at Chicopee Baptist Church, saying he knew him “like a son” over the past 15 years or so. “I’ve seen many tears from his eyes,” Carpenter said.
When asked by the Defense if he would trust Merck to teach a Sunday school or music, Carpenter said he felt “what he did is over” and would have no qualms recommending him for such a position.
Merck denied abusing his power as a teacher over this student. He was originally arrested in October 2019 after school district officials became aware of allegations with a former student. The school district said Merck has worked with the school system since 1999 and was a music teacher and band director. He resigned two weeks after his arrest and his teaching license has been revoked.
Daniel Merck, Pastor Phil Carpenter, nor Defense Attorney Blake Poole could not be reached for comment. Pastor Carpenter has made an unwise judgement concerning Merck's role in the Church. One should never have a sex offender instructing children or working in the ministry in any capacity.
Please pray for the victim as she heals and deals with the trauma forced upon her.