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
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:
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.