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Ex-Basketball Coach Enters Plea in Sexual Battery Case

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)

 

FLOYD — Former Floyd County High School girls' basketball coach Jason O'Dean Dalton was convicted Tuesday of molesting a teenage member of a team he led nearly a decade ago.

In a plea agreement, Dalton was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and was put on probation for five years. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with the entire term suspended. A charge of taking indecent liberties with a minor was dropped.

Dalton, 38, of Willis, will have to register with the state sex offender list, submit to random drug tests, and undergo any treatment recommended by his probation officer, Floyd County Circuit Court Judge Marc Long said. Dalton is to have no contact with the two women he was charged with molesting, the judge added. Dalton also is barred from the private Turman Sports Complex in Willis — a request that came from its owners, Commonwealth's Attorney Eric Branscom said.

"You are a monster," Long said after assuring Dalton that he was accepting the plea agreement and would not impose time behind bars. "I hope you realize what you've done — it's just plain despicable."

Dalton denied any wrongdoing but entered an Alford plea of guilty to the aggravated sexual battery charge. In an Alford plea, a defendant maintains his or her innocence but agrees that enough evidence exists for a conviction.

In a written statement issued by defense attorney David Rhodes of Christiansburg after the hearing, Dalton said that he made the Alford plea to ensure that he was able to continue to provide for his family.

"This does not admit guilt, but protects my family from a lengthy trial process," Dalton said in the written statement.

Branscom said after the hearing that protecting the women Dalton molested from being traumatized again at a trial was his reason for allowing an Alford plea in the agreement with Dalton.

The prosecutor said a seven-month state police investigation had identified at least nine victims whose ages ranged from 14 to 18 at the time of the incidents with the former coach and teacher.

At an earlier hearing in the case, the victims' ages had been given as 14 to 19, and the incidents with Dalton were said to have occurred from around 2003 to 2015.

Dalton is a 1998 graduate of Floyd County High School. He took a job as a county physical education teacher in 2011 and coached for the junior varsity girls basketball team for six years. In March 2017, he was appointed as the varsity basketball program's head coach to replace Alan Cantrell, who was retiring after 40 years.

The announcement of Dalton's hiring spurred the first public accusation against him, said a victim who testified Tuesday.

The woman, who The Roanoke Times is not identifying, said that she was 17 when the incident occurred that led to the indecent liberties charge. Now 31, the woman said that when she heard that Dalton was becoming head girls basketball coach, she was moved to contact the county school board about what had happened to her.

She said that she had felt guilty for years for not speaking out because other girls might undergo the same thing she had.

The woman testified that in 2004, at a sleepover at Dalton's house with other members of an AAU basketball team that he coached before taking a position with Floyd County schools, he put his hands up her shirt and grabbed her breasts. The woman said she told Dalton, whose wife and infant child were upstairs in the house, that she wasn't interested.

But the next day during the team's road trip to King's Dominion, she said, Dalton had another team member drive while he sat in the back with her. He put a blanket over their legs and repeatedly grabbed her crotch, she said.

"He was like a brother to me ... . He manipulated and broke that trust," she said.

The woman said that she had kept quiet about what happened partly because she did not want to hurt Dalton's wife. But her decision to speak out crystallized when her own daughter, age 3, told her that she couldn't wait to play basketball. The woman said she realized that she could never allow her daughter to join a team that Dalton coached.

"I can devastatingly say 'Me Too,' " the woman said, then added, "He no longer holds power over me. I am not a victim."

Branscom said that the woman's email to the school board led to the state police investigation.

The episode that resulted in the aggravated sexual battery charge occurred at another team sleepover in 2008. At an earlier hearing, Branscom said Dalton had provided alcohol to an underage team member.

On Tuesday, he said Dalton made sexual remarks to the 18-year-old girl until, to try to avoid him, she pretended to pass out. The coach then masturbated in front of her and ejaculated onto her, Branscom said.

The victim of the battery charge did not testify Tuesday but filed a written impact statement.

Branscom said that the two charges filed against Dalton represented the worst of the incidents reported during the state police investigation.

During the investigation, the former coach stabbed himself with a knife in an incident that his family called an accident but which prompted a psychological evaluation for suicide risk. On Oct. 10, after state police told Dalton they were coming to serve arrest papers on him, Dalton was found bleeding on the ground beneath a deer-hunting tree stand.

In a hearing last fall, Dalton's wife, Carrie, testified that he told her he'd fallen from a ladder while tying a cloth blind around the stand, cutting himself with a knife he was carrying. The wound was severe enough that Dalton was airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and given a transfusion of 10 units of blood. He had an artery taken from his groin and used to repair his arm, and later was twice transported from jail to the emergency room because of blood clots and an infection, his wife said.

Dalton no longer is employed by Floyd County schools, Superintendent John Wheeler said Tuesday.

High school Athletic Director Travis Cantrell — the son of former head coach Alan Cantrell and a Floyd County teammate of Dalton's on a 1997 championship team — took over head coaching duties for the varsity girls program for the 2017-18 season.

A new head coach eventually will be named, Wheeler said.

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April 11, 2018
 
 
 

 

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