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Defense Says Girl Coerced to Make Sex Charges Against Coach

June 13, 2002|MASSIE RITSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On the first day of the trial of a high school basketball coach accused of having sex with a Glendale girl on his team, the coach's attorney argued Wednesday that two other faculty members had coerced the student into making false accusations.

The defense lawyer contended that two female coaches resented Paul Calvin Clark III's promotion to athletic director at Ribet Academy, the Los Angeles private school where they all worked. So they pressed the high school freshman into falsely saying that she and Clark were having sex, the attorney argued.

Meanwhile, the prosecution presented a former student from a different school where Clark had previously worked who testified that she had a relationship with him when she was underage.

Clark, 34, of Duarte faces felony charges carrying up to 16 years in prison for various alleged sex acts in 2001 with a minor identified as "Jessica V.," a member of the girls' basketball team at Ribet. Clark no longer works at the school, which is in the Glassell Park neighborhood.

In his opening statement Wednesday in a Pasadena courtroom, Clark's attorney, Robert M. Bernstein, told the jury of nine men and three women that the two female coaches surreptitiously videotaped Jessica while pressuring her into admitting a sexual relationship with Clark. Bernstein plans to show jurors that tape.

"This case is merely about sex, lies and videotape," he said.

Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrea Austin said in her opening statement that even though Clark's relationship with Jessica was consensual, he still committed statutory rape by having sex with her while he was 33 and she was 15.

"This is a case about a betrayal of trust," Austin said.

For her first witness, Austin put on the stand Robyn Hayes, who played on Clark's basketball team at Immaculate Conception School in Monrovia seven years ago. Hayes, now 21, testified that she and Clark began having consensual sex when she was 14. She said she denied the relationship to others until last year, when a Los Angeles County sheriff's detective asked her about it during his investigation of Jessica V.'s allegations.

Before Hayes took the stand, Bernstein attacked her credibility, telling jurors that she is "an accomplished liar" who had a sexual relationship with Clark only as an adult.

Clark and Jessica V. are alleged to have had sex multiple times in the first six months of 2001--in his office at Ribet Academy and in a locker room there, at his home and in his car.

Their final encounter allegedly occurred in early July 2001, when Jessica's parents discovered her missing from her bedroom in their Glendale home. Her father testified Wednesday that he called Clark that night to ask about Jessica's whereabouts because the girl's cousin, who was sleeping over, told him that Jessica had telephoned her coach before leaving the house.

Jessica V. is expected to testify today.

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