Jesse Stovall, a 37-year old former coach at the Berkeley, California Bear Swim Club has plead no contest to a second degree felony charge of sexual activity with a 16 or 17 year old in Orlando today. He was sentenced to 4 years of probation, and must register permanantely as a sexual offender.
This is the latest in a series of cases involving coaches accused of sexual misconduct with their swimmers, which culminated in a lawsuit filed against USA-Swimming.
This case was particularly disturbing, as the facts of the case seem to indicate that Stovall worked for years to develop a relationship with this swimmer that would allow him the freedom to commit his deed. Stovall built up a repore with the girl, giving her special attention in practice. Stovall also worked hard to build a trusting relationship with her parents, which culminated with him convincing them to allow the star swimmer to travel with him to a week-long meet in Orlando without her parents, in March 2008.
Stovall’s logic was that the swimmer could use the opportunity as a chance to mature and become more independent. He then “”provided her alcohol and then sexually battered her,” according to the police report.
The plea agreement, which was supported by the victim’s family, helped Stovall avoid 6 felony charges that could’ve landed him up to 90 years in prison. The unnamed swimmer, who now swims collegiately, wished to move on from the episode, and felt that this was the best way to do it.
The terms of the plea state that Stovall cannot visit any pornographic websites, nor research the swimmer, her results, or try and find her on any social networking site.
The recent outcry over sexual abuse was sparked by a major ABC 20/20 report. Many believe that the coverage has blown the issue out of proportion, while others believe it brough to light what is a major institutional failure within USA-Swimming.