INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Court of Appeals gave the go-ahead Friday for a trial to determine whether a former LaPorte High School volleyball coach failed to report an illegal sexual relationship between another coach and a student-athlete.
MaryBeth Lebo faces two misdemeanor charges of failing to report child abuse or neglect. She is accused of not informing the school, police or Department of Child Services that Robert Ashcraft was engaged in a sexual relationship with the then-15-year-old girl.
Lebo also is accused of instructing players not to tell anyone about Ashcraft's 2007-08 relationship with the girl, according to court records.
Ashcraft, 48, was convicted last year of four felonies involving sexual misconduct and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
In February, LaPorte Superior Judge Jennifer Koethe denied Lebo's motion to dismiss the failure-to-report charges.
Lebo argued in her appeal the charges were barred by the two-year statute of limitations and were not specific enough to prove she was aware of Ashcraft's illegal acts.
In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court rejected Lebo's statute-of-limitations claim because Lebo allegedly helped conceal Ashcraft's crime. The court also said the failure to report child abuse is a continuing offense under which the duty to report exists so long as a person is aware of the abuse.
In addition, the court said Indiana law does not require actual knowledge of child abuse to prompt a report, just a "reason to believe" abuse is occurring.
The Ashcraft relationship details in the charges against Lebo — including his leaning on the girl's legs during a movie, putting his arm around her and acting like boyfriend and girlfriend — met that standard, the appeals court said.
Judge John Baker dissented from that portion of the court's ruling.
He said that in retrospect Ashcraft's actions suggest an inappropriate relationship, but at the time "there is no way that a person in a similar position as Lebo would 'feel certain' that Ashcraft was engaging in illegal sexual acts."
The appeals court decision rejecting Lebo's motion to dismiss still can be appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court.