Ex-Coach at Girls' School Faces Corruption-of-Minor Trial

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The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Ben Finley; Inquirer Staff Writer

A Montgomery County judge on Tuesday ordered a former tennis coach at a Main Line girls' school to face trial for allegedly kissing and sending suggestive text messages to a player on his team.

The judge's decision followed about 30 minutes of sometimes tearful testimony from the girl, who was 15 at the time of the alleged crimes.

Charles Meredith, 52, coached her for about two years at Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Bryn Mawr before his arrest in December. He has since been fired.

The girl testified that Meredith sent her several texts last year containing messages such as "you're so hot."

"I wouldn't respond back in any sexual way," she told District Judge Francis Bernhardt III in a Plymouth Township courtroom. "I would just talk about tennis."

But the texts kept coming, she said, including one that offered to buy her alcoholic drinks at Christopher's, a restaurant in Wayne.

Then, sometime in August, she said, Meredith kissed her for two to three minutes after practice in the parking lot of the SuperFit gym in Plymouth Township.

"He pulled his car around and put it in park and started kissing me," the girl testified, adding that Meredith told her not to tell anyone.

Meredith is the latest in a string of area youth coaches accused of having or attempting sexual contact with a player. He faces two counts of corruption of minors: one for the texts and one for the kiss, police said. The charge is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in prison.

Meredith, who lives in Upper Merion Township, is free on $50,000 unsecured bail.

The girl testified that Meredith's texts continued until the end of the tennis season in October, when, after a postseason dinner, he texted her that she was going to be "his dessert."

The girl eventually told her mother about the texts, and she then went to the police. The teen then told detectives about the kiss, according to Plymouth Township police.

Meredith's attorney, James Freeman of Phoenixville, has said that Meredith will fight the charges. Before the district judge on Tuesday, Freeman challenged one of the corruption-of-minors counts because it was based on a kiss as opposed to more substantial sexual activity, something he said was unusual.

The judge, however, said the girl's testimony was enough to send the case to County Court.

In an interview after the hearing, prosecutor Jordan Friter rejected Freeman's claim that a kiss wasn't enough to make a case. He said a kiss is sexual conduct, which has been the basis for many corruption-of-minors cases statewide.

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February 12, 2014




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