Saturday, November 21, 2009

IN: Tennis coach gets 2 yrs. in prison for abusing students

Kawamoto pled guilty in August

Updated: Thursday, 19 Nov 2009, 10:40 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 19 Nov 2009, 9:06 PM EST

FRANKLIN, Ind. (Daily Journal) - A former Greenwood tennis coach has been sentenced to two years in prison after inappropriately touching three teen girls who came to him for private lessons.

Don Kawamoto, 53, pleaded guilty in August to three felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor as part of a plea agreement with the Johnson County Prosecutor's Office.

He was joined at his sentencing hearing Thursday afternoon by friends and family, including his wife and four children, who spoke of Kawamoto as a good man, father and tennis coach.

Eight years in prison was the maximum sentence Kawamoto could have received. Factors such as a lack of criminal history balanced with the fact that Kawamoto broke a trust relationship with the victims led Johnson County Magistrate Richard Tandy to hand down a sentence of six years at the Department of Correction with all but two years suspended.

Kawamoto was arrested in January after a 15-year-old girl told police that he put his hands down her shirt and touched her breasts during a private lesson at a school facility, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Kawamoto was fired from his first-year job as the boys varsity tennis coach at Greenwood Community High School.

At Thursday's hearing, the mother of one victim read a statement aloud, detailing how her daughter's life was affected by Kawamoto. Her daughter has problems sleeping and seldom goes out with friends, instead opting to stay home.

Kawamoto's family painted a different picture of him. His wife, Cindy, spoke of an attentive, devoted husband who would do anything for his children, on the tennis court and at home.

Getting fired from his job and having to register as a sex offender and endure media attention has been enough of a punishment, Cindy Kawamoto said.

Her husband apologized to his victims and wished them good luck in the future in both academics and athletics.

"I'm truly sorry for what I did," Kawamoto said during his hearing.

He originally faced another felony charge, sexual battery, but the prosecutor's office could prove only one of the two felonies from the first victim, Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper has said.

Prosecutors opted to pursue sexual misconduct with a minor instead of sexual battery because the former charge is a higher-class felony and comes with a harsher sentence.

Two other girls came forward after the first teen made a report, and both said that similar incidents had happened to them over the past two years, the affidavit said.

The girls told police they couldn't remember how many times the incidents happened because they occurred often. In the case of one of the girls, Kawamoto told her parents not to come with their daughter to her lessons because their presence made her not practice as well, the affidavit said.

In two cases, Kawamoto called the girl a crybaby. He called one girl a crybaby after she wouldn't lift up her shirt for him and told another girl she was one, too, according to the affidavit.

After the first victim came forward, Kawamoto told police that he was trying to improve the girl's swing and accidentally touched her breast, Greenwood Police Chief Joe Pitcher has said.

Kawamoto later told officers that he touched the girl for sexual gratification and that in the past he had paid extra attention to positioning students because it gave him sexual gratification, Pitcher said.

As part of his sentence, Kawamoto will have to continue counseling.

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