Charges stand against LaPorte school officials in sex abuse case

2012-02-09T15:45:00Z 2012-05-24T19:46:14Z Charges stand against LaPorte school officials in sex abuse caseBy Stan Maddux Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 09, 2012 3:45 pm  • 

LAPORTE | A judge upheld charges against two LaPorte school district employees charged with failing to report sexual crimes of a volleyball coach against a player.

Robert Ashcraft, a former LaPorte High School junior varsity assistant volleyball coach, is serving a 21-year prison sentence on convictions of felony sexual misconduct.

Ashcraft and the girl met when she was 14, and in 2007 when she was 15, the two began having sex in a situation that lasted for more than a year.

LaPorte Superior Court 3 Judge Jennifer Koethe denied motions to dismiss charges Tuesday against athletic director Ed Gilliland and head volleyball coach Mary Beth Lebo.

Gilliland and Lebo each are charged with two counts of Class B misdemeanor failure of duty to report. They remain free on bond awaiting the outcome of the case. Each count carries a potential maximum six-month jail sentence.

In their Oct. 29 motions to dismiss, attorneys for Gilliland and Lebo argued the two-year statute of limitations to bring charges in the case had expired and prosecutors did not exercise due diligence to bring charges in the required two-year time frame.

The defendants are accused of having reason to believe abuse or neglect against the player was occurring and of not reporting it to law enforcement or child protective services between August 2007 and October 2008.

Prosecutors, though, didn't file charges until Sept. 6 last year, exceeding the statute of limitations by nearly a year, the defense said.

In response, prosecutors argued they had no evidence or knowledge a potential criminal offense had occurred then. They said Gilliland and Lebo during that time concealed what turned out to be a serious situation between the coach and player.

The clock on the statute of limitations did not begin until state police presented their findings from an investigation, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors allege Gilliland lied to investigating officers and Lebo did not come forward because of fears of losing her job.

Prosecutors also said, in Ashcraft's personnel file, Lebo revealed witnessing instances that included Ashcraft at a volleyball tournament leaning between the legs of the girl and on a bus ride putting his arm around the girl and sharing food.

Lebo also told her players to keep quiet about any rumors between Ashcraft and one of the players, prosecutors said.

In denying the motion to dismiss charges, Koethe ruled the allegations of concealment by Lebo and Gilliland and the claim that prosecutors failed to act with due diligence must be proved at trial.

Koethe also ruled that whether Gilliland and Lebo had sufficient reason to report the girl was being abused or neglected is something that "a jury would be required to decide."

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