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Drug charges dropped against former North Andover swim coach

The prosecution of former North Andover swim coach Elizabeth Backler, who had been accused of providing prescription pills to a high school student, ended Monday when a judge dismissed all the charges she faced.

Backler’s defense attorney, David Meier, said Lawrence District Court Judge Michael Uhlarik threw out the charges just before Backler’s trial on three counts of distributing oxycodone and Valium to the North Andover High School student in 2014.

“I am confident she would have been found not guilty [if a trial was held] because she is not guilty,’’ Meier said in a telephone interview. “Elizabeth Backler was wrongly charged and wrongly arrested.’’


While returning from swim meets at Regis College in Weston and Harvard University in Cambridge in 2014, Backler had been accused of giving a single pill to a then-16-year-old teenager who had complained of shoulder pain. The student fell asleep, the Globe reported in 2015.

She was also charged with providing a prescription bottle to the same student with whom she had developed a friendship that included taking the girl to physical therapy appointments, and exchanging texts and gifts with the student, the Globe reported.

Backler was prosecuted by Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office, and spokeswoman Carrie Kimball Monahan said prosecutors told Uhlarik they met with the teenager and the teenager’s mother on Monday.

Following that meeting, prosecutors told the judge they could not go forward with the criminal charges and agreed with Meier that all charges should be dismissed.

“We are confident that law enforcement acted in good faith during every stage of the process,’’ Kimball Monahan wrote in an e-mail. “However, we believe it was in the best interest of the victim not to proceed at this time.’’

Meier said Backler is “exploring all her options’’ including whether to be rehired by the Amesbury public school system where she was employed at the time of her arrest. She had previously worked as a teacher and swim coach for both boys and girls at North Andover High.


“She lost her job teaching, and she lost her job coaching,’’ Meier said. “She is exploring all her options.’’

He said Backler broke into tears and then looked into the gallery where her parents were sitting in anticipation of the trial.

John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.