NORTH PORT, Florida (AP) — A Florida high school principal accused of using hypnosis on students entered a written plea of not guilty to two misdemeanor charges on Thursday.
George Kenney, 52, was charged earlier this week with two counts of unlawful practice of hypnosis.
Officials say George Kenney hypnotized two North Port High students before the two, independently of one another, committed suicide last year. Officials say Kenney had been warned by his boss to stop using such one-on-one hypnosis with students.
But Kenney's attorney, Mark Zimmerman, said that the principal's supervisor only expressed concern and never gave him a written directive to stop the hypnosis. Kenney, who currently is on administrative duty not at the school, plans to retire from the school district at the end of the school year, Zimmerman said.
Kenney is not guilty because the law requires proof that the hypnosis was for therapeutic purposes and that wasn't the reason for the hypnosis, Zimmerman said.
"The purpose always was to either boost athletic performance or academic performance," Zimmerman said. "My interpretation of therapeutic is that implies a form of treatment. He wasn't treating anybody."
Prosecutors decided not to file felony charges of unlicensed practice of health care. The misdemeanor charges of unlicensed practice of hypnosis carry a maximum of up to a year in jail.
A state attorney's investigation included interviews with hundreds of people.