Miami-Area Youth Sports Coach is Accused of Molestation for the Third Time
Parents in the Miami area are wondering why a youth baseball coach recently arrested for molesting a child was ever allowed to work with kids, especially since he's been accused of similar offenses in the past. According to a report from the Miami Herald, the 47-year-old coach was charged for two instances of inappropriate contact with children all the way back in 2000. However, neither charge ever resulted in conviction, reducing the chance that they would show up on background checks.
Most recently, the suspect has been serving as a longtime coach for the Cooper City Optimist Club. He's been an integral part of the local youth baseball league, and the club did indeed run "comprehensive background checks" before letting him work with kids.
In fact, the Cooper City Optimist Club's youth sports league has a fairly no-tolerance background check policy, automatically barring any employees or volunteers found guilty of a crime in the past. It doesn't matter whether the offense is sexually related or something more minor, like petty theft, nor does it matter how long ago the offense took place: the Optimist Club's policy was to not take any chances when it comes to hiring people for youth sports leagues.
But arrests and dropped charges don't typically show up on background check reports, meaning that the suspect's two previous charges for criminal sexual conduct remained hidden when the Cooper City Optimist Club ran their background checks. Both charges date back to 2000: in May of that year, the suspect was arrested by the Miami Dade police and charged with "lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 16"; a few months later, in November, he was arrested again and charged with fondling a child, in connection to a different case.
Both of those cases were eventually dropped for reasons that are unclear. One of the incidents, however, did lead to a lawsuit. The family of one of the boys who had allegedly been molested sued the suspect, his employer, and Miami Shores, the village where the suspect worked as a youth sports league coach. The family wanted the defendants to pay a minimum of $15,000 in damages, the suspect for his direct actions, and the employer and Miami Shores for negligent hiring. That case was ultimately dismissed as well, but may have shown up on a background check if the Cooper City Optimist Club had looked into the suspect's civil history.
This time around, the suspect is being charged with "two counts of sexual assault on a victim under 12." Police documents say that the suspect used his position as a coach to repeatedly assault the victim, touching the victim's private parts "when he was alone with the child, driving the victim home, or while [the victim was] at [the suspect's] home for a sleepover." In addition, a second player has come forward claiming to have been sexually assaulted by the suspect, and new charges are expected to be filed in the case.
The situation here is an upsetting one, because it seems like parents and sports league officials should have known about the suspect's questionable past. But without convictions, arrests and charges mean very little, and since the suspect was never actually found guilty of a crime, Cooper City Optimist Club had no valid legal reason to bar him from becoming a coach. As mentioned previously, a civil history search may have uncovered his court case, but most youth sports leagues focus their background screenings on criminal history, sex offender registries, and child abuse clearances.