Ato Stephens, the former track coach accused of indecently assaulting a young female athlete, apologized to the girl’s parents, Justice Michael Wood heard last week.
The mother and father gave their evidence in court after the girl gave hers via video link on Thursday. The girl was 14 when the series of incidents with the defendant began.
Stephens, 37, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of indecent assault, one count of gross indecency and one count of knowingly using an ICT network to abuse, annoy or harass the girl by sending indecent messages.
Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards completed the case for the Crown shortly after noon on Friday.
Lead defense counsel Paul Keleher asked for an adjournment until Monday morning. He did not say whether Stephens would give evidence, but indicated he would complete the defense case on Monday.
Parents give evidence
The girl’s mother began her evidence by explaining that when her own phone was not working, she got her daughter’s old phone and put her chip in it. While using the phone she saw some WhatsApp messages from Stephens and some pictures of her daughter in bra and panties. The message from Stephens would be to send him the picture and “make sure you delete.”
She said she spoke to her daughter about the matter and told her to open her new phone. She saw similar pictures and conversations and asked her daughter about them. She said her daughter told her that “Coach” had told her if she did not cooperate then she could not be part of the track club; she was afraid of being thrown out, so she cooperated.
Questioned further by Ms. Richards, the mother said she phoned Coach Ato and told him she wanted to speak to him. She said he came around lunchtime the next day, a Thursday. She told him about the messages she had found. At first he did not respond – like he was in shock, she reported. He said he was sorry, that he was having problems with his family, he was not working. “He was telling me to forgive him,” she said. She told him she didn’t know what to do about the situation, so she was putting it in the hands of the law.
Her husband was home at the time and he was upset. Coach Ato was apologizing to her husband also and then left. Afterward he phoned her twice, still apologizing.
The next day, a Friday, she went to police.
Mr. Keleher asked if she had been angry and upset. “I was feeling like a mother,” she replied. Later she added, “I was upset that we trusted him and he was doing this to her.”
Justice Wood asked if she were angry with her daughter. The mother said that when the girl explained, “I understood.”
The girl’s father said in his evidence that his wife had told him what had happened.
When Coach Ato came to the house, the father asked how, as a coach, the defendant could do such a thing, manipulating her. “He was very apologetic. He said he was sorry and it wouldn’t happen again and we shouldn’t take it to the police. He begged me not to take it any further,” the father said.
Facts agreed to by prosecution and defense were read into the record by senior Crown counsel Elisabeth Lees on Friday. They included information about Stephens’ purchase of a one-way ticket and his departure from Cayman the day after visiting the girl’s parents. He was extradited from the U.S. in February this year.
The girl’s mother had confirmed that the coach’s wife told her she had thrown him out.
Part of the girl’s testimony not previously reported in the Cayman Compass was her questioning by the defense counsel.
In his cross-examination, Mr. Keleher asked her if she thought she was in trouble after her mom found the messages on the phone. She said yes.
“And did you think that if you tried to blame Coach for something extra that he hadn’t actually done, he would be in more trouble than you – it would take the pressure off you?” he suggested.
“I didn’t think that at all,” the girl replied. “The police told me to be honest, so I was honest.”
Asked if she had ever flirted with Coach, she said, “Not intentionally.” She agreed she had messaged him saying she missed him. Asked if she had given Coach the impression that she wanted the relationship to go further, she said she might have, but it was the way she was feeling at the time – she felt she had to do it.
Justice Wood has been given copies of images and messages from the phones of the girl and the defendant. Exhibits in the case include maps of where various athletes lived, so that the girl could explain the routes Stephens took when driving them home after practice, and where she said the indecent assault occurred.