CROWN POINT — A jury deliberated for about an hour Wednesday before convicting a Henry W. "Coach" Brown, of Gary, of repeatedly molesting a girl when she was between the ages of 7 and 9.
The girl, now 16, took the stand Tuesday and broke down in tears when Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Arnold began asking her questions about the sexual abuse she endured.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Samuel Cappas sent the jury out so the girl could regain composure. As jurors left the courtroom, the girl struck the wooden bench in front of her several times with her fist and stormed out of the room.
Defense attorney Michael Lambert asked the jury to overlook the girl's emotional outburst and accused her of fabricating her story.
"There was just an overwhelming sense that it was being created as it was told," he said.
The girl testified she initially wanted to go to Brown's house in the 500 block of Warren Street because he had toys, bicycles, gaming systems and computers for children to use. He typically had six to 10 children stay at his house on the weekends, she said.
Brown, 61, a former basketball coach at the now-shuttered Bohr Elementary School, took the children to sporting events and out to restaurants. He did not have any children of his own, she said.
Lambert asked the jury why Brown would take the children out in public if his true motive were to sexually abuse them.
"He treated kids right," he said.
Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Johnsen said a detective with the Lake County sheriff's Special Victims Unit testified that Brown's behavior showed he was "grooming" the children who stayed at his home to become his victims.
"Mr. Lambert says (Brown) was a giving man, but he also took something," Johnsen said, as he talked about the girl's testimony. "He took her virginity, and he took her childhood."
Johnsen said Brown's strategy was "bait, catch and release."
The girl testified she once awoke while sleeping on Brown's floor and saw him sexually abusing another child. Court records show Brown initially was accused of sexually abusing four girls between the ages of 6 and 14.
"He set a trap for those kids, and he caught some, too," Johnsen said.
A sentencing date was not yet listed in online court records.