HEMET — The story was so unbelievable, so fundamentally distasteful, so prurient that even the TV movie producers weren't quite sure how to treat it, and the folks here simply wouldn't believe it.
The seamy affair could only be raised as a question: Surely it wasn't true that the high school football coach asked his two quarterbacks to have sex with his wife?
But the couple finally admitted committing oral copulation on one boy and soliciting his friend; they were sentenced, and moved out of town. In their wake, they left two sons of longstanding Hemet families dealing with the confusion, the embarrassment, and the daunting challenge of going public with their story--in an effort to change state law.
A.T. Page, now 19, and his best friend and backup quarterback, 18-year-old Marc Searl, say that if statutory rape charges involving under-age female victims can be filed against men, then there has got to be one that acknowledges that boys can be victimized by older women.
At first, even as rumors swirled around this Riverside County town that they were involved in the scandal, Page and Searl remained silent. Even as Randy and Kelly Brown pleaded guilty and said, through their attorney, that the older boy had fallen in love with Kelly Brown and that Randy tolerated it to hold his family intact, the teen-agers kept quiet.
But finally they went to a local attorney and asked how to change the law because it was not able to protect them. The sheriff's detectives investigating the crimes said the issue of intercourse was irrelevant because that was not against the law. That's not a crime, Page said he was told, because you're a guy, not a girl. Oral copulation is a crime so let's focus on that, they said.
So Page and Searl went to Sacramento to lobby for a stalled bill that would amend the state's statutory rape law to allow for the fact that boys could be victims too.
"I came here today," Page told the legislators July 6, "just to let you know just how much pain that we have been through."
The boys' attorney, Sherrill Nielsen, said: "It was like they were on a quest for a righteous endeavor. I felt I was standing in the aisles of greatness--not because I was among senators and assemblymen, but because I was standing alongside A.T. and Marc."
Their point, the teen-agers say, is that boys can be coerced by dominant adults into having sex with a woman, leaving them emotionally traumatized. "I was not forcibly raped, but I was emotionally raped," Page said.
The Browns, through one of their attorneys, said they would not react to the boys' account, which was delivered in an interview Friday. They spoke haltingly in quiet tones, appearing uncomfortable with the topic.
Page and Coach Brown--as the ballplayer to this day refers to him--met when Page was quarterbacking in junior high, the youth said. Even when he played on the freshman team at Hemet High School, Brown--the varsity coach--gave him tips and advice, grooming him for his next three years.
The two bonded quickly, Page said, and the coach evolved as a father figure. "I loved the man," Page said. "He meant the world to me, and I'd do anything for him. . . . I believed in him."
Increasingly, Page would go to the Brown home and watch videos of games and practices and play with the couple's four young children.
In December, 1990, Page said, he was invited to go with the Browns to a cabin at Big Bear. Past midnight--while they were viewing more football videos, "Coach Brown asked me what I thought the key would be to make me a better player. I said, 'To get stronger. I need to work on weights.'
"And he said that when he went to high school, he could have sex whenever he wanted, and he asked if I could."
Page said he thought he was being tested by his coach, and "I said no."
According to Page, Brown told him he had a "botched vasectomy" that cut a nerve, preventing him from having sex with his wife. Because of that marital distance, Brown said, he was distracted as a coach and unable to concentrate on football.
"He asked if I'd have sex with Kelly," Page said. "I said no! I started sweating and shaking. And he said that it would put me on a better level as a quarterback, and he swore that if I did this for him, he'd work every day of his life to get me a Division I (football) scholarship."
Over the next 2 1/3 years, Page said, he had sex with Kelly Brown, virtually every weekend and sometimes during the week. He said he felt he was under his coach's "hypnotic control. He'd call me and say: 'Come on over and let's watch some films.' And I knew what that meant."
The Browns would invite Page to accompany them on weekend getaways--including once to Las Vegas--where the inevitable would occur.
The quarterback told close friends that he was having sex--but would not identify his partner. "I had to get at least part of it off my chest. I couldn't live with it on my own--but it's not something you can tell your parents."