Appeals court rejects sentence reduction request in LaPorte coach sex case

2012-12-28T17:15:00Z 2012-12-29T14:32:13Z Appeals court rejects sentence reduction request in LaPorte coach sex caseDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
December 28, 2012 5:15 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | A former LaPorte High School volleyball coach, convicted of four felonies following a two-year sexual relationship with a student-athlete, must serve his full 21-year prison sentence, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Robert Ashcraft, 48, asked the appeals court to reduce his prison term because he claimed the female volleyball player, who was 14 at the the start of their relationship in 2007, was a "willing and enthusiastic participant" in their sexual encounters, according to court records.

In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court said it found that argument "reprehensible in light of the circumstance of this case," noting that Ashcraft violated his position of trust over the girl as a coach and family friend, manipulated the girl into covering up his actions and caused her emotional trauma.

"For all of these reasons, we conclude that Ashcraft's aggregate 21-year executed sentence is not inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender," Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the appeals court.

The court also rejected Ashcraft's claim that he was denied a timely trial.

Misdemeanor charges alleging a failure to report child abuse in connection with this case are still pending against Edward Gilliland, LaPorte High School's athletic director, and MaryBeth Lebo, the school's former head volleyball coach.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in separate decisions during the past six weeks that trials for Gilliland and Lebo should proceed.

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