Athletics coach claims innocence in abuse case involving 4 students; Two-year sentence demanded
The Public Prosecutor demanded two years in prison, eight months of which conditionally suspended against Jerry M. - an athletics coach accused of sexually abusing four underage girls. The man himself denies all charges against him, according to RTV Rijnmond reporter Paul Verspeek tweeting live from the courtroom.
M., 59, is suspected of abusing girls since the 1980s, but this trial is only about the period 2000 to 2009, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said in court on Thursday. In that period M sexually abused four girls between the ages of 11 and 15 years, according to the OM. A number of cases already reached their statutes of limitations, in others the victims decided not to press charges. Which is why M. is being tried for only these four cases.
The athletics disciplinary committee reported M. to the authorities in 2018, after which a criminal investigation was launched. He was arrested, but later released to await his trail in freedom under a number of conditions.
The first victim was sexually abused by M. while on an athletics trip to Spain in 2006, according to the OM. She shared a hotel room with a double bed with M., because only two hotel rooms were booked for the four people who went on the trip, the OM said. During that trip, M. sat on top of her and touched her breasts, the victim said. "Her breasts were massaged. She was not allowed to tell her parents. She found this very confusing," the OM said.
M. claimed that he massaged the girl to help with injuries. He sat on top of her so that he "could reach better". "It was not the intention that she could not move." When the court asked why he was sharing a room with a 14-year-old girl, M. said "that was just the accommodation.
The second victim was on a training camp in France with M. in 2004. There he suddenly kissed her on the mouth, gave her massages, and placed his hands on her butt while they were walking through a local market. M. denies this. "Not true. I once kissed her on the cheek after a good training, nothing more," he said in court. And: "I was never at a market there." He also gave the girl lingerie as a gift, she said. M. responded: "I also did that for my wife. I enjoyed giving it. Not because I wanted something from her. We just had a great time together."
Victims three and four are sisters. They told the authorities that M. was "touchy" during training. When they were in the starting blocks, M. pressed his lower body against them. "They felt the lump in his pants," the OM said in court. They did not press charges against M., but did tell what happened at home. This resulted in M. being suspended from CAV Barendrecht, the OM said. M. also denied these accusations. He said he used his hands to correct their starting positions. "But I didn't press against them."
According to the Public Prosecutor, multiple witnesses confirmed that M. behaved in the ways these victims described. Other athletes also received gifts and messages from him, reported being kissed by him, said that he pressed up against girls on the starting blocks. Separate cases are so similar to each other that they strengthen the evidence, the OM said.
"The Suspect was a good trainer, brought students to a higher level. He enjoyed prestige in the athletics world. But he has been damaging, devastating. The victims have difficulty with their sexuality and relationships," the Prosecutor said. "The suspect has been addressed on several occasions for his border-crossing behavior. At one association [in Barendrecht] he was even sent away. But he just kept going."
The Prosecutor is concerned that M. will sexually assault girls again, because he sees himself more as a victim than a perpetrator. The Prosecutor demanded two years in prison, eight months of which conditionally suspended, against M. The man must also continue treatment and supervision by the probation service.
M. said in court that it was difficult for him to hear the victims' accusations against him. "I did everything for them. Picking them up, dropping them of, standing ready." He also said that a kiss on the cheek after training is the same as a high-five.
According to M.'s lawyer, his client was tried by the media. "Witnesses may have colored their statements due to the media pulling things out of proportion," he said. M. never confessed to accusations of sexual abuse as reported, the lawyer said. He only accepted a settlement put forward by the athletics disciplinary committee.
There are also many pupils who testified that they never noticed any unwanted behavior from M., the lawyer said. He described his client as a "jovial, pleasant man". "He was also a good trainer. That he gave massages as a coach was not unusual in the athletics world."
The court will rule on March 5th.
Reports of sexual misconduct involving Dutch sports organizations has risen substantially in recent years. There were 70 such reports in 2019, up from 30 in 2017. About 90 percent of the victims in last year’s cases were underage. Some 55 percent of the victims were female.