Ex-teacher pleads not guilty in kidnapping his former student

Tad Cummins, 50, of Columbia, Tenn., was arrested April 20, 2017, in Siskiyou County, Calif., after more than a monthlong manhunt and charged with transportation of a minor across state lines for the purpose of criminal sexual intercourse, a federal crime.

NASHVILLE — A now-former teacher charged with fleeing Tennessee with one of his students has pleaded not guilty in federal court.

Tad Cummins of Columbia, Tenn., Entered the plea in a court filing and waived his appearance for an arraignment that had been scheduled for Thursday. It’s common for defendants to plead not guilty early in a case.

The 50-year-old was indicted May 18 on charges of obstruction of justice and transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in criminal sexual conduct. The 15-year-old girl, Elizabeth Thomas, was Cummins’ former student.

Cummins and the girl were found April 20 in a remote forest cabin near Cecilville, Calif., About 38 days after they disappeared. The girl was safe and returned to her family.

In court documents, Cummins admitted to switching vehicle license plates twice, disabling his vehicle’s global positioning system, using aliases, altering his appearance, paying only in cash and using back roads during his nearly six weeks on the run.

► May 13:What Tennessee teacher accused of abducting student did on the run► May 1:Inside the hunt for Elizabeth Thomas► April 25:Teacher accused of abducting student planned to go to Mexico► April 20:How two Californians helped capture Tennessee’s most wanted man► March 23:Teaching was dream job for man accused of kidnapping student.

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His request earlier this month to be released on bond was denied in part because of the evasive actions he is accused of taking while on the run.

“Cummins held a position of trust and authority as a teacher. He has already demonstrated his lack of regard for that position. He has also demonstrated his willingness to evade authorities,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Holmes wrote in that decision filed May 19.

If found guilty in the case, Cummins could face a minimum prison term of 10 years.

Follow Stacey Barchenger on Twitter: @sbarchenger.

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