Bill on coaches who prey on players advances

Posted: November 15, 2013

A bill that targets coaches who have sex with players by making the charge a third-degree felony unanimously passed Pennsylvania's House on Wednesday.

The proposal, which proceeds to the Senate, follows the arrests of at least nine Philadelphia-area coaches who have been accused of having sex with players or attempting to since 2011.

The law would apply to sports officials who are unaffiliated with a school, such as a travel team coach. It would make it a felony for them to have sex with a player 16 or older.

"This is just another grasp around the necks of the perpetrators," said Mike Vereb, a Republican from Montgomery County, who introduced the bill this year and during the last legislative session.

For years, prosecutors were limited to misdemeanor counts, such as corruption of minors, against adults who had sex with a child 16 or older. For example, in July 2011, James Civello, a squash coach at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, was charged with corruption of minors after having sex with a 16-year-old student. He was sentenced to a maximum of 23 months in jail.

In December 2011, the state amended the criminal code so school employees would be charged with a third-degree felony if they had sex with any student or player. That charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Vereb's bill would apply the same charge to any sports official unaffiliated with a school.

"The amended statute carved out all of the school personnel," said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, who supports Vereb's bill. "But it really did leave open those [coaching] relationships that are developed outside of school activities."

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