Coach appeals after conviction for indecency with a child,… | TCTA
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Coach appeals after conviction for indecency with a child, other charges

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A coach at a private school was arrested and accused of inappropriate conduct with students. After a trial, he was convicted of multiple counts of indecency with a child, online solicitation of a minor and inappropriate relationship between a student and an educator. He appealed that conviction.

At trial, the evidence showed that the coach would "stretch" certain student-athletes in the same manner as a sports therapist. However, several young men testified that he would incorporate sexual contact into these stretching sessions. Most of the touching occurred on campus in an office the teacher shared with a co-worker. Other touching occurred on a school bus after a school-sponsored event. All of the victims testified that they were students when the touching occurred and that they were familiar with the coach through his employment at their school.

On appeal, the coach raised several issues. First, he argued that the trial court should have agreed to postpone the trial. The coach requested that the trial be delayed because he was ill with COVID. His doctor explained that due to his illness, the coach may have trouble concentrating and recommended that he stay home to avoid worsening his symptoms and potentially putting the public at risk.

At the time of trial, his symptoms included laryngitis, which impeded his ability to speak. He argued that all of these facts inhibited his ability to communicate with his attorney. The trial court did initially postpone the trial for a short time, but denied a second request for postponement.

On appeal, the court of appeals noted that, although the coach did have laryngitis, he was able to communicate with the court by nodding or shaking his head as appropriate. It also noted that the coach was given the opportunity to appear via Zoom and communicate with his lawyer whenever he wanted. The coach declined that opportunity and chose to appear in person.

The coach also argued that he was entitled to have the charges of inappropriate relationship between a student and educator considered separately from the other charges of indecency with a child and online solicitation of a minor. He argued that considering them all together could unfairly prejudice the jury against him.

In considering this argument, the court noted that "severance" of charges is appropriate when there is no overlap of evidence between the different charges. However, in this case there was significant overlap. In order to prove that the coach had an improper relationship with his students, the state was required to show that:

  1. he was an employee of a public or private primary or secondary school; and
  2. he engaged in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works.

The court of appeals found that once the state had proven that indecency with a child had occurred, the only additional point it was required to prove was that the coach was employed by a public or private primary or secondary school and that the sexual contact involved a person enrolled at the school in which he worked.

Because of the manner in which the offenses were committed, the court found that the coach's employment at a private school and the young men's status as students of the school would probably have come out, even if the charges had been tried separately. Therefore, the evidence supporting the improper relationship charges overwhelmingly overlapped with the evidence supporting the other charges.

After considering the various arguments raised by the coach, the court of appeals denied the appeal and upheld the trial court's conviction.