Young athlete recalls star coach’s alleged assault

| 27/07/2017 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Ato Stephens outside the courthouse

(CNS): A 16-year-old-girl told a court Thursday, via video link, that regional track star Ato Stephens (38) touched her “inappropriately” in his car when he was her coach in 2015/16 when she was 14 and 15 years old. The young runner, who was training with the medal winning athlete from Trinidad, said that Stephens had started by asking her for semi-naked or full nude pictures and had begun sending sexual messages about what he would like to do to her and what he would like her to do to him.

He told her he wanted the pictures to help him relax and had threatened to throw her off the track team if she didn’t cooperate.

The girl said that on two or three occasions when he was taking her home after training he had put his hand down her underwear and touched her vagina, and on a number of other occasions had pulled down his own pants, exposing his penis and asked her to touch it. She said she had refused and he didn’t try to compel her.

The crown’s case against Stephens, which is being presented by Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards QC, is based largely on the girl’s evidence and some WhatsApp messages and pictures exchanged between them on her phone.

The young witnesses explained that the coach had her cell phone number to communicate about training. As a promising young athlete, she was working with Stephens and his wife, Caymanian international medal-winning athlete, Cydonie Mothersill, at least four nights a week after school and on Saturdays.

The girl said that out of the blue, the messages changed from talking about her performance on the track and he began asking for the pictures, which she said she felt pressured to send because of the threats because she did not want to lose her spot on the team.

Although Stephens had asked the girl to delete the pictures and messages, she told the court that she did not delete all of them. Almost a year after he first began the sexually charged messaging and indecent assaults, the girl’s mother stumbled across some of them, which triggered the chain of events that landed Stephens in the dock.

The mother, who also gave evidence Thursday, told the court that she found the messages when she used an old phone that had been her daughters because she was having problems with her own. When she saw the content of the messages and pictures her daughter had sent to the coach, she was shocked. When the child came home from school, she asked her what was going on, and the girl explained that she had been sucked into the exchanges because she was afraid she would be thrown off the team.

Before going to the police and before she was aware of the indecent assaults, the girl’s mother called and arranged to meet Stephens, where she and her husband confronted him. She told the court that the coach had apologised, that he had talked about his weaknesses and the problems in his own family, and begged for forgiveness.

Stephens had also asked the girl’s mother not to go to the police, but, deeply upset by his breach of trust, she told him that she was going to hand the messages over to the RCIPS.

But before Stephens could be arrested, he left the jurisdiction, the court heard. Once the case was in the hands of the police, the girl also revealed the indecent assaults in the car and related her claims in interviews with the RCIPS Family Support Unit, which were videoed and shown to the court.

Stephens was later arrested in the United States. He was then extradited to Cayman in February this year and remanded in custody.

He is charged with two counts of indecent assault, one count of gross indecency and one count of abusing an ICT network. He has denied all of the allegations.

The case continues.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , ,

Category: Courts, Crime

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.