Track student had crush, coach claims

| 31/07/2017 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Ato Stephens told the court that he believed the teenage girl who has accused him of sexually assaulting her had a crush on him when he was her running coach. When the track star from Trinidad appeared in the dock Monday, he denied ever touching the young girl or exposing himself to her. He admitted sending inappropriate messages, asking her for nude or semi-naked pictures of herself and engaging in sexual talk, but he claimed he was never alone with her and that no physical contact ever happened.

Stephens is charged with two counts of indecent assault, one of gross indecency and of abusing an ICT network, which he has denied.

The coach told the court that he became closer to the girl who has made the accusations against him when she was just 14 years old when she was training with him at an athletics club formed by him and his wife, former elite athlete Cydonie Mothersill. He said they became close after a track meet at which the child had not done as well as expected because she was injured. She was the only member of the team not to win a medal and he had consoled her, as he would any other athlete.

He said he couldn’t recall the exact details of how things shifted to the inappropriate sex messaging but denied threatening to throw the young girl off the team if she didn’t comply with his requests for sexy pictures and later the physical touching, as she has claimed. He said she was the one who had started the flirting and he had entertained it, but it was never more than indecent or sexy talk, as well as the pictures, which he apologised for. He said he didn’t know why he had let it happen and he accepted it was inappropriate. 

Stephens said it was “very bad judgment and I am very sorry”, adding that it was degrading and “bad of myself” to do it.

But he said he had never been alone with her in his car when taking the young athletes from the club home and the allegations that he ever touched her were false. He accepted that he should not have engaged in the sexting or asking for pictures but he described her as having a crush on him, which he found entertaining and it was “flirtatious”.

Unable to explain the content of some messages that appeared to show the coach trying to make arrangements to see the teenager alone, he insisted that no meetings ever happened. He said where she had attempted to engineer them being alone together in his car, he had “blown it off”. He admitted that he had made sexual requests of her and had said things in text messages that suggested he wanted to engage in sexual activity but he said he only messaged the suggestions and never had any intentions of doing the things stated in the messages.

None of the sexual activity cited ever took place, he told the court from the dock, despite messages that were extremely explicit and appeared to suggest not only that he was planning to commit sexual acts on the child when they were alone together but that they had already engaged in sexual touching.

Stephens persistently denied that anything ever took place but he admitted being attracted to the young girl and finding her desirable. He admitted asking for pictures of her naked and encouraging her to masturbate but denied ever actually engaging in any sexual activity with the child. He also accepted that on many occasions he had asked the child to delete the messages.

Although the girl had told the court when she gave evidence that she had deleted a great deal of the exchanges they had, there were still many messages that she had retained on her phone.

During cross-examination Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Richards QC asked him about the specifics of the messages but he was unable to give explanations in most cases. Stephens told the court he could not recall things, that he was unaware of the context or the messages in question, or that they had referred to song lyrics or even earlier phone conversations they had shared rather than potential or past sexual encounters, as they might imply.

When asked about his meeting with the young girl’s parents, he admitted that he had apologised to them over the pictures but he denied fleeing because he believed that they were going to report him to the police. He said that when his wife learned of the messages, she had asked him to leave the family home, and as he had nowhere to go in Cayman, he went to his house in Miami.

He said that he did not contact the police when he left Cayman and said he bought a one-way ticket because he is an American citizen and that is where he was living for part of the time. Stephens also revealed that he had contacted two Cayman attorneys from the United States after the messages had come to light, but claimed he was unaware that the police wanted to speak with him or that a formal complaint had been made against him until he was arrested in the US. He denied fleeing the jurisdiction because he knew he was in serious trouble for what he had done.

During the day’s evidence the court heard some of the sexually explicit content of the messages that Stephens, now 38, was sending to the girl last year and the year before that, when she was just 14 and 15 and he was more than twice her age and in a position of trust.

While the messages included day-to-day conversation about training, dealing with her injuries and talking about her bottom and the development of her muscles as a sprinter, they also contained detailed talk about her body from a sexual perspective. They also included his sexual desires and what he intended and wanted to do to her. But despite the graphic nature of the messages, he was insistent that nothing physical ever happened and that they were never alone in the car together as the girl suggested.

When directly asked about the allegations by the public prosecutor, he answered, “No, ma’am. That didn’t happen.”

The case continues.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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