E-mails excluded from trial
July 12, 2001
Jurors appointed to decide whether former McCutcheon High School girls track coach Pete Emmert is guilty of sexual misconduct will have his accuser's 50-page diary to peruse during deliberations.
But they won't have to comb through an inch-thick stack of the girl's e-mail messages.
Judge Don Johnson of Tippecanoe Superior Court ruled Wednesday that the entire diary, starting in August 1999 and ending in April 2000, should be admitted as evidence.
But after reading through the stack of e-mails for a second time Wednesday, Johnson rejected defense attorneys' arguments that they should be allowed to read all of them. Several e-mails judged to be relevant to the case already have been admitted as evidence.
Arguments over evidence interspersed testimony from 16 different witnesses during the second day of Emmert's trial on five counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.
Emmert, 35, formerly a business teacher, assistant football coach and girls track coach, is accused of having three different sexual encounters with a 14-year-old freshman on his track team in April 2000. If convicted of the most serious offenses, he could face six to 20 years in prison.
Emmert's attorneys, Matt and Carl Sandy, argued for the opportunity to examine the e-mails, noting that the judge earlier had denied a similar request concerning the diary. Johnson reconsidered and admitted all of the diary after hearing evidence and Emmert's legal defense.
Emmert's attorneys argue that the alleged sexual encounters were merely fantasies the girl had before she even got to know Emmert. Later, after Emmert rejected her advances, they argue, the girl made her fantasies public and presented them as fact to get even with Emmert.
Deputy prosecutor Jennifer Gutwein presented a portion of the girl's diary as evidence in the case against Emmert, but withheld other portions to protect the girl's privacy.
Johnson later admitted the entire diary, allowing defense attorneys to point out that the girl had written about fantasies she'd had about two other teachers.
After reviewing the stack of e-mails Wednesday, Johnson ruled they were irrelevant to the Emmert case, noting they included jokes and other materials that had been forwarded from other e-mail users.
"There's no original thought there," he said, overruling the objections of the Sandys.
Other evidence Wednesday included testimony from Judith Anderson, a clinical psychologist who works with child sexual abuse victims.
Anderson did not work with Emmert or his alleged victim, but she said it's common for adult sexual abusers to "groom" their victims with nurturing behavior to gradually make them receptive to secretive sexual activity.
She said most child molesters are not pedophiles who target a series of children as victims. Most, she said, are seemingly normal people who "regress" into the role of molester because of situational stress or emotional weakness.
She said secrecy is a precondition of the molestation situation, and most victims are not initially inclined to report the abuse. Anderson said most victims go through a series of events in which they report the abuse, later deny it, and then admit it again.
Adolescents are susceptible to abuse, she said, because they are trying on adult roles but realize they lack the competencies to do adult things. They rely on adults to correct them when they overstep the proper boundaries, Anderson said.
Also testifying Wednesday was Doug Patterson, assistant principal and interim athletic director in the spring of 2000. He said Emmert was instructed on April 14, because of concerns voiced to school administrators, to:
Not be in the weight room with female student-athletes without a female coach present.
Let athletic trainers take care of student-athletes' injury concerns.
Not be alone with the track team member who now accuses him of sexual misconduct.
Two of the three reported sexual encounters Emmert had with the girl allegedly occurred after that meeting.
Also Wednesday, three teacher-coaches and four student-athletes from McCutcheon took the witness stand. Several testified that they had seen Emmert and the girl alone together several times. Athletes said Emmert appeared to give extra attention to the alleged victim during and after practices.
But none of those witnesses said they ever saw the two engaging in inappropriate activity.
By Joe Gerrety, Journal and Courier, Copyright © 2001, Federated Publications, Inc.