INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday cleared the way for a trial to determine whether the LaPorte High School athletic director should have reported child abuse he allegedly knew took place.
Edward Gilliland was charged last year with two misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse or neglect. He allegedly did not contact authorities when parents of students on the school's volleyball team told him in 2007 the assistant coach was rubbing lotion on players' bodies and spending time alone with one student before and after school.
That assistant coach, Robert Ashcraft, 48, later was convicted of four felonies involving sexual conduct with a 15-year-old student-athlete. He's currently serving 21 years in prison.
Gilliland argued in his appeal of LaPorte Superior Judge Jennifer Koethe's decision denying his motion to dismiss that the 2011 charges were barred by the state's two-year statute of limitations for misdemeanors. Gilliland also claimed the reports of a potentially inappropriate relationship were not evidence of child abuse.
The appeals court rejected both claims.
It ruled the statute of limitations does not apply because Gilliland helped conceal Ashcraft's crime by telling LaPorte police in 2008 that he "had no knowledge whatsoever" why Ashcraft resigned, despite Gilliland having recorded the parents' concerns in Ashcraft's personnel file.
In addition, the court said evidence of a sexual relationship isn't required to trigger the duty to report, just awareness of inappropriate contact.
"It is for a jury to determine whether Gilliland had reason to believe (the student) was a victim of child abuse or neglect based on his knowledge that Ashcraft had given foot rubs to (the student) and rubbed lotion on her back," the court said.
A different three-judge Court of Appeals panel ruled last month that MaryBeth Lebo, the former head volleyball coach at LaPorte High School, can also be tried for failing to report child abuse.