YMCA Leader Receives 9 Years


98,500 children were sexually abused in the US in 1999, the last year for which data is available. As many YMCA professionals know, abuse, sexual and otherwise, occurs nearly everywhere. Yet, there is a natural inclination to believe abuse won’t happen in our own communities, not to mention our own YMCA. Awareness of the threat is key, and reinforcing proven abuse prevention strategies is an essential element in protecting the kids in our programs. Both are the goals for our “Abuse Alert” program. Each is a brief treatment of the topic, focussing on one real, recent, public event…reprinting the article about the event in its entirety (omitting names and identifying references to the YMCA) and providing a few important teaching points for you to share with your staff. As always, if you need additional guidance on this topic, please call us at (800) 463 8546.


MAJOR SOUTHERN CITY: 03/22/2002 - A former YMCA youth leader smiled at a group of children seated in a courtroom Thursday as a judge prepared to sentence him to nine years in prison for molesting one of his young charges.

[Offender], 28, also pleaded no contest Thursday to two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct involving other children. A jury last month found him guilty of two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with an 11-year-old he originally was accused of raping. The plea was part of a deal that precludes the need for a second trial on the additional charges.

After the nine-year prison term for his conviction at the jury trial, [offender] will serve 15 years of supervised probation for crimes included in Thursday's plea deal. [County] Circuit Judge [name] declared [offender] a sexual predator and said he faces 30 additional years in prison if he breaks probation.

Throughout the hour-long hearing, [offender] appeared almost giddy. His only apparent concern was with a ban on contact with children during his probation. [Offender] asked the judge to clarify the issue.

“I believe I understand the spirit behind it,” [offender] said of the prohibition against going to places where children congregate. Then, motioning toward his wife, who was seated in the audience with three unrelated children, [offender] asked: “Obviously we wouldn't be going to playgrounds, but what if we were going somewhere with friends?”

[Judge] told [offender] that probation would “severely limit” where he can go and said she has heard of sexual predators being banned from living in apartment complexes that have swimming pools.

"You should expect your life to be severely curtailed” [Judge] said.

The judge also tried to send a message to [offender’s] family and supporters in the audience. She said she was not pleased with the treatment [offender’s] victims received after they came forward with their allegations.

"I have not ever seen a case where there was so much pressure on the children, from who knows where,” [Judge] said. “Those children have been regularly pressured and teased at school and in the community for speaking out about what happened here.”

[Offender] was charged with molesting children in May 2000 after the 11-year-old reported he had raped her with his hand during a sleepover at his St. Petersburg apartment. Several children from the [name] apartment complex, where the couple operated a YMCA outreach office, testified they routinely slept over at the apartment.

After [offender’s] arrest, YMCA officials said they knew before hiring him that he had been acquitted of charges of lewd conduct with children in [state] from 1995 incidents.

[Judge] said she will decide at a later date the amount of restitution [offender] must pay to cover psychological counseling for his 11-year-old victim.

What we don’t know:

  • the extent of screening, background checks, reference checks, code of conduct, or program supervision normally used by this YMCA
  • whether background checks, reference checks, and other third party contact provided acceptable verification of the falseness of earlier allegations or if he was just a convincing interviewee
  • why obvious red flags were ignored, both in hiring and supervising this offender
  • whether the offender’s latitude of allowed behavior was typical or a deviation from standard

What we do know:

  • the offender had a prior history of alleged abusive behavior with children
  • the YMCA was aware of his alleged prior history, yet hired him anyway
  • the YMCA not only hired him, but placed him in a program that not only gave him access to children, but relatively unsupervised access (as the program was not at a YMCA site)
  • the offender’s observable behavior violated any approved sexual abuse prevention’s code of conduct by having children spend the night in their apartment
  • the offender’s grooming of the community subjected the children to repressive pressures
  • the offender did not appear repentant or even sorry for his actions
  • we don’t catch abusers abusing our children: we catch them breaking the rules of behavior

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.


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