One in every six boys and every four girls will be a victim of sexual abuse by the time they turn 18. Youth and high school sports teams, unfortunately, like wrestling, are one of the places where children and teens are most vulnerable to sexual predators. Coaches are seen as authority figures and often commit acts believing they won’t get caught or have to pay consequences for their actions. We have seen this time and time again in the public school system, private schools, youth sports leagues, and religious organizations.
At Estey Bomberger, our mission is to help victims become survivors and fight for justice. Whether the perpetrator was a clergy member, teacher, or a wrestling or youth sports coach, we will demand change within the institution and fight for the justice our clients deserve. Every case begins with a thorough investigation. We work with top experts to identify every responsible party, consult with the best expert witnesses, and fight to obtain the justice you deserve, and that meets your individual objectives for moving forward.
Torrance High School – Thomas Snider Case
In April 2015,Thomas Snider, the 47-year-old coach of the Torrance High School Tartars (Los Angeles County, CA) was arrested and charged with molesting 25 students in the high school wrestling program. He was charged with 33 felony counts of lewd acts upon a child ages 14 or 15 and eight misdemeanor counts of child molesting. Snider was accused of lewd acts on more than two dozen student-athletes on his team ranging between the ages of 13 and 16 years old between September 2013 and February 2015, according to a news release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Snider was released from jail on June 27 after posting $2 million bail. He entered a not guilty plea in July to charges that he molested 26 boys. If convicted, Snider could spend the rest of his life in prison.
If your child has been abused by Thomas Snider and you would like more information about your legal rights, please contact Estey Bomberger to schedule a free consultation at 800-925-0723.
Victims of sexual abuse can suffer psychological effects for years and even a lifetime. The effect of not just the coach’s action, but the school’s negative actions or inactions is real and significant. Schools are responsible for ensuring children are safe. When a child is harmed on school property or while in the care or supervision of a school employee, the school may be held liable. Victims have the right to sue a school district in civil court for money damages. Not only can a lawsuit compensate victim for harm, it can create changes in an institution by requiring policies and procedures to be implemented that will prevent future abuse.
Other Wrestling Coach Sex Crimes
While the allegations involving the Torrance High School wrestling coach are shocking, this was not the first event involving allegations of sexual abuse involving a wresting coach. Over the years there have been many arrests and allegations involving youth wrestling coaches. Some other recent events include:
- JULY 2015 – Jeannette, Pennsylvania — Joshua Westfall, 26, a wrestling coach at Jeannette High School, was charged with felony charges related to an alleged sexual relationship with a 15-year-old female student. The victim told police that the relationship betan with texting and grew to include her staying at Westfall’s home on several occasions, including sleeping in bed with him. Another 16-year-old girl told police that Westfall came to her house on two occasions and grabbed her and kissed her. Both girls testified at Westfall’s preliminary hearing. News Source: WTAE.COM
- MARCH 2015 – Creighton, Missouri — Megan Blair Baker, 25, a teacher and assistant wrestling coach at Sherwood Cass High School, was arrested for allegedly having sex with a student in the back of a school bus. Baker was placed on paid administrative leave and if convicted, could spend up to four years in prison. News Source: KCTV
- FEBRUARY 2015 – East Orange, New Jersey – Justin Bozinta, 37, of Roselle, New Jersey, the gym teacher and wrestling coach at East Orange Campus High School, was arrested on charges of child pornography and operating a marijuana production facility. Bozinta was accused of uploading several images of child pornography to a Google+ photo account using a school computer. While executing a search warrant at Bozinta’s residence, investigators found several images of child pornography on an external computer hard drive, and a sophisticated marijuana “grow room”, along with seven handguns, four rifles, a shotgun, and a homemade silencer. News Source: Washington Post
- FEBRUARY 2015 – West Covina, CA – Anthony Vidales, 29, of Covina, a contract wrestling coach for South Hills High, was arrested for alleged inappropriate contact with a 17-year-old member of his team. He was placed on paid administrative leave, pending the criminal investigation. News Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune
- JANUARY 2015 – Camdem, Delaware – Richard L. “Dickie” Howell II, the 50-year-old P.E teacher and wrestling coach at Caesar Rodney High School, was charged with child sex abuse and rape following a 10-month sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student. Howell was charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child, 15 counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a child by a person of trust and two counts of fourth-degree rape. News Source: Delaware Online
- OCTOBER 2014 – Clearwater, Florida – Scott Stern, a wrestling coach at Clearwater Catholic High School for 12 years, was arrested on charges he hit two students after forcing them to strip naked. Another student claimed Stern forced him to strip naked and struck his buttocks with a ruler. In 1999, he was accused of stripping a student naked and forcing the boy to balance a ruler on his head. News Source: Tampabay.com
- JULY 2014 – Chicago, Illinois – Gerald Gaddy, 42, an assistant wrestling coach at Simeon Career Academy High School was arrested and charged with one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a victim between the ages of 13 to 18 in a position of authority, criminal sexual assault by someone in authority, and aggravated battery in a public police. The charges stemmed from two incidents at the school on January 1 and June 25th of 2014. An investigation was launched in June after a 15-year-old girl accused Gaddy of squeezing her buttocks. Gaddy worked at the school despite a criminal record that included multiple drug convictions. News Source: Chicago Tribune, Courthouse News Service
- MARCH 2014 – Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania – Stephen Stahl, 47, a wrestling coach and dean at Coughlin High School, was arrested ten years after beginning a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student. The victim came forward to police on December 31, 2013. He was sentenced to six to 23 months in jail in March 2015. News Source: Citizens Voice, WNEP
- MAY 2013 – Las Cruces, New Mexico – Jimmy Nevarez, the 15 year veteran coach for the Mayfield High School varsity wrestling team for 15 years was arrested and charged with criminal sexual contact of a minor by school personnel, a fourth degree felony; intentional child abuse, a third degree felony; and harassment, a misdemeanor. Charges were later dismissed, due to a procedural error in the indictment. News Source: KVIA News
- NOVEMBER 2012 – Los Angeles, CA – Herbert Ortiz, 29, a former assistant wrestling coach at Rosemead High School from 2007 to 2009, was arrested at a U.S. Consulate office in Mexico in November 2012 while trying to obtain a visa to Guatemala. He was brought back to the U.S. and arrested at LAX. Sheriff’s detectives had been looking for him since September. Ortiz was also a founder and instructor for the Bad News Panthers Children’s Wrestling Club until he was identified as a sex abuse suspect in September of 2012. In July 2013, Ortiz was sentenced to three years and eight months in state prison. In a plea agreement, he pleaded no contest in May to one count of committing lewd acts on a child and one count of oral copulation on a person under 16 years old. News Source: ABC 7, InsideSoCal.com.
- JUNE 2012 – Tucson, Arizona – Richard Ortiz, 55, the wrestling coach for Tucson High School, was arrested when he was found having sex with a 15-year-old special education student. He had been removed from his wrestling coach position several months earlier due to reports of abusive behavior, but kept his job as a hall monitor, otherwise known as a “student liaison”. The girl received private wrestling instruction from Ortiz until his arrest. He was sentenced in August 2014 to 3 ¾ years in prison. News Source: Arizona Daily Independent, Tuscon.com
- AUGUST 2011 – Canton, Georgia – Robert Leslie Morrow, 28, a varsity wrestling coach at River Ridge High School in Woodstock, was arrested August 11, 2011 and charged with one count of sexual assault by a person of authority arising from an incident in December 2010. The victim was 16-years-old and attended class in the same classroom where Morrow worked. She initially told another teacher, Kristen May, about the incident in January of 2011. May did not report the incident, and the victim reported the incident to Woodstock police on July 26, 2011. After an internal investigation, May was arrested and charged with failure to report. Following a trial in Cherokee County in February 2014, Morrow was found guilty of felony sexual assault. He was sentenced in March 2014 to 240 days behind bars and 10 years on probation as a sex offender. News Source: Cherokee Tribune, Woodstock-Towne Lake Patch
- APRIL 2010 – New Fairfield, Connecticut – Greg Heinzer, 29, was charged with sexually assaulting two brothers who were members of the New Fairfield Wrestling Club. Heinzer was the wrestling coach at New Fairfield High School, and also a volunteer at the New Fairfield Wrestling club. He originally plead not guilty, and then reached a deal in 2012 and plead guilty to two counts of risk of injury to a minor. He was barred from taking any coaching position that involves contact with minors under age 16, but would not have to register as a sex offender. News Source: News Times, NBC Connecticut
- MARCH 2007 – Miramar, Florida – Alain Cupas, 28, the wrestling coach and school security guard, was charged with molesting a sophomore while escorting her through school. He reportedly was walking a 15-year-old girl to internal suspension and took a detour through a room where athletes get ice. He unlocked the door and pulled her in and touched her inappropriately exposed him self. The school had hired Cupas in October 2005, more than three years after he was acquitted of date rape in North Dakota. In March 2009, Cupas was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Broward Circuit Judge Susan Lebow gave Cupas two consecutive 15-year terms with credit for the 38 days he spent in jail since his conviction. News Source: Sun Sentinel, United Press International
- JUNE 2006 – Leander, Texas – Timothy Daniel Morriss, 42, a Central Texas wrestling coach was indicted on federal charges that he molested two female high school wrestlers while they were on a cross-country bus trip, and forced one of them to perform a sex act on him. The assaults reportedly happened in July 2005, while the girls and their coach were travelling through Missouri on a charter bus returning from a national meet in Fargo, North Dakota. On the way back to Texas, Morris sat between the two girls and placed a sleeping bag over them when the alleged assaults occurred, according to the affidavit. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to serve 10 years of supervised release after the prison term. He was also ordered to pay more than $51,000 in restitution to the two victims. News Source: Fox News, Eyewitness News
- FEBRUARY 2002 – Ventura County, CA – Andrew Paul Fonseca, 23, of Moorpark, a volunteer wrestling coach at Moorpark High School, was arrested on suspicion of committing sex acts with a 14-year-old female student at the school. In December 2002, he was sentenced to a year in jail and also required to register as a sex offender. Fonseca later married his victim. News Source: LA Times
The sexual abuse lawyers at Estey Bomberger have the knowledge and resources to take on the most challenging and complex legal claims. We understand that our clients have different goals and we take no action without their consent. Contact us today to discuss your potential case. We provide free and confidential consultations to sexual abuse victims and their families.