BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss.- A former Hancock High School basketball coach received a 30 year sentence after she was found guilty by a jury of molesting a child.
The indictment claims the incident happened within the 2009-2010 school year in which Leslie Danielle DeWitt, a former assistant basketball coach for the school, is accused of two counts of unlawful touching (molestation) of a child for lustful purposes. She was acquitted of the two charges of sexual battery.
She was sentenced to 15 years in prison for each charge by Circuit Judge Larry Bourgeois. She is not eligible for early release or parole.After serving the full length of her sentence, she is required to register as a sex offender.
According to local media present at the trial, Bourgeois told DeWitt:
“The most precious asset that our community has is their children. The most precious assent was entrusted to you – you manipulated that child and took advantage of the trust given to you. You’ve shown no remorse whatsoever.”
However, the crowd within the courtroom cheered when the first not-guilty verdict was read regarding the charges of sexual battery. The jury was out for close to three hours deliberating before they returned with a verdict.
DeWitt was accused of having a sexual relationship with a then 16-year-old student between Dec. 1, 2009 and July 30, 2010. The student did not report the crime until she was in college, three years later.
The girl claimed she suffered depression and anxiety because of the incident and confided in her mother who contacted authorities.
Chris Daniel and Alison Barker prosecuted the case.
“The victim testified that DeWitt initially disclosed her feelings for the student in the 8th grade,” Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel said in court. “After years of grooming, the defendant committed various sexual acts of sexual molestation on her over a period of approximately eight months.”
The trial lasted for five days until a verdict was presented on Friday. DeWitt’s attorney, Jim Davis, claimed that the prosecution had a “lack of physical evidence,” and that reasonable doubt should have been considered. This consideration comes in regards to a sex toy the victim claimed DeWitt used on her. However DeWitt’s husband said the toy was not purchased until June of 2010, which is outside of the scope of the abuse.
Other school officials were questioned claiming that they had concerns about the close nature of DeWitt and the student’s relationship.
Davis said DeWitt was obsessed with the victim just like the witnesses pointed out in their testimonies.