Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Softball coach vindicated?

Back in March, I posted this about North County Softball Coach Christopher Facione and allegations that he had improper relations with one of his players:

The coach of a North County traveling girls softball team has been arrested on suspicion of having sex with a 17-year-old player.

Christopher Facione of Carlsbad is charged with two felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Facione is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Superior Court.

Monday a jury deadlocked on his case and the case was dismissed:

A judge dismissed charges yesterday against a North County softball coach accused of having unlawful sex with a 17-year-old female player after a jury deadlocked in his trial.

Jurors were split 8 to 4 in favor of acquittal for the alleged Oct. 2 incident, and 11 to 1 in favor of acquittal regarding the second.

“The jury had questions on the believability of the evidence,” said Sean Leslie, also an attorney for Facione. “They feel they didn't meet the burden.”

After jurors came back deadlocked, Judge Joel Pressman dismissed the case.

Hmm. I am conflicted here. Facione did in fact have his case dismissed and certainly the only ones who truly know what happened are him and the 17-year old girl.

I coach teenage girls (basketball). I understand the dangers involved with potential false accusations and what it could do to my reputation, my life.

Having said that, I would never put myself in a position to even have the possibility of such an accusation being leveled.

I pointed out the signs of inappropriate contact between coach and player in this post last year. My warning to parents...:

Be diligent and insist on this from coaches who instruct your kids:

1. No one-on-one interaction with players away from the field or court of play. Any talks with players can be done in front of parents, other coaches, or team captains.

2. Set and adhere to guidelines for contacting players outside of games or practice. No late night private phone calls or emails.

3. Be aware of coaches who buy players gifts or write personal "encouraging" notes. I once knew a youth baseball coach who bought one of his kids a poster of his favorite major league player. Four months later, that coach was arrested for molesting that kid. Which leads me to my next point:

4. Don't assume that just because the coach is the same gender as your kid or is married, that you can relax your standards.

According to the arrest warrant, police indicated they were in possession of text messages from Facione to the message indicating that he "missed her", another asking her to dinner.

Inappropriate text messages do not equal unlawful sex. Facione has had his charges dropped and he now has the opportunity to restore his credibility and his life. Here's hoping he exercises better judgment in interacting with his players in the future...and that his tale is a cautionary one for youth coaches everywhere.

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