Attorney: LaPorte prosecutors won't put school officials on trial

2013-03-11T16:15:00Z 2013-03-12T14:15:06Z Attorney: LaPorte prosecutors won't put school officials on trialMarisa Kwiatkowski marisa.kwiatkowski@nwi.com, (219) 662-5333 nwitimes.com

Two LaPorte High School officials accused of failing to report an inappropriate relationship between a junior varsity volleyball coach and an underage girl will not be prosecuted, an attorney for the girl's family said Monday, noting the family was told such a prosecution would "cost too much money."

Athletic Director Edward Gilliland and head volleyball coach MaryBeth Lebo each were charged with two misdemeanor counts of failure of duty to report the sexual crimes.

They are accused of having reason to believe a relationship between the girl and Robert Ashcraft, a former girls assistant volleyball coach, was happening and not reporting it to law enforcement or child protective services between August 2007 and October 2008, court records state.

Ashcraft was found guilty in 2011 of three counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and one count of child seduction, court records show. He is serving a 21-year prison sentence.

Attorney Tim Stoesz, who represents the girl's family, said the LaPorte County prosecutor's office told the girl's family a month ago that Lebo and Gilliland were offered pre-trial diversion, which does not require them to admit blame or guilt.

Under pre-trial diversion, charges against defendants are dismissed if they stay out of trouble for a designated period of time.

Stoesz said the girl's family was told the primary reason for prosecutors offering pre-trial diversion was because prosecuting them "would cost too much money."

Stoesz represents the family in a civil lawsuit against Ashcraft, Gilliland, Lebo, the state and LaPorte Community School Corp., claiming officials ignored indications the relationship was happening. That suit is pending.

"I have personally reviewed the evidence contained in the Indiana State Police investigation report and, in my professional opinion, the evidence against MaryBeth Lebo and Ed Gilliland is very strong," Stoesz said in a written statement to The Times.

Deputy Prosecutor Chris Fronk said the cases against Gilliland and Lebo still are pending, but he challenged Stoesz's interpretation of their status.

"I would not agree that that is a correct assessment of the matter," Fronk said.

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