A former education technician at Sacopee Valley High School pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two charges stemming from an alleged sexual encounter he had in February with a teenage student at the school.

Zachariah Sherburne, 23, remains free on $500 bail after pleading not guilty to one charge each of gross sexual assault, a felony, and sexual abuse of a minor, a misdemeanor. Sherburne engaged in a sexual act with a female student who was 16 or 17 years old, according to an affidavit by the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department in February.

The filing says that the girl was a student at the time and that Sherburne’s employment in School Administrative District 55 gave him disciplinary authority over her. An ed tech helps teachers in a supportive role, and works directly with students.

The definition of gross sexual assault in Maine law lists “supervisory or disciplinary authority” over a student as one of the criteria. The definition for sexual abuse of a minor does not.

Sherburne, dressed in a blue and white collared shirt for his court appearance, spoke only to enter his plea during the brief appearance in Oxford County Superior Court in South Paris.

Afterward, Sherburne’s attorney, Allan Lobozzo of Lewiston, said he has filed a motion to dismiss the case against his client because Sherburne was no longer effectively employed by the school district when the sexual encounter took place, and therefore he could not have been serving as a “supervisory or disciplinary authority” over the girl, which is one of the required elements of the portion of the gross sexual assault statute under which Sherburne was charged.

With the motion, Lobozzo also filed a copy of Sherburne’s letter of resignation from SAD 55 – the date of which is not clear – along with a subsequent email from the superintendent on Feb. 6 indicating that Sherburne would be released from the district’s employ effective Feb. 12.

Lobozzo said that because the age of consent in Maine is 16, the only factor that would have made Sherburne’s conduct criminal was his employment in the school district where she attended.

“At the time of these incidents Zach Sherburne had already resigned from the school department,” Lobozzo said. “In fact, his last day of employment, he had already cleaned out his desk on the 11th (of February), and these alleged incidents took place on the 12th.”

Lobozzo also frequently mentioned the victim by name while talking with the media outside the courthouse after the hearing. The Press Herald does not name victims of sexual crimes without their consent.

In a court filing rebutting Lobozzo’s motion, Oxford County Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Winter argued that Lobozzo’s motion attempts to address whether the evidence is enough to support a conviction.

“Maine and federal law simply does not permit courts to engage in pre-trial analysis of the facts to be presented,” Winter wrote. “The jury is the sole determiner of the facts in evidence.”

After Sherburne left Sacopee Valley High School, he was hired as an ed tech in School Administrative District 6 in Buxton, where his father, Frank Sherburne, was the superintendent. The hire conflicted with the district’s nepotism policy barring the hiring of family members of the superintendent or members of the school board.

After his arrest, it was also discovered that Zachariah Sherburne did not have state approval to work in a classroom environment.

Frank Sherburne ultimately resigned from SAD 6 under pressure from members of the community who were outraged that the policy had been violated with the knowledge of some board members. He sat with his son in court Wednesday before the brief proceeding.

Sherburne is due back in court July 7 for a motions hearing.