Thursday, November 10, 2005

Student Accuses Coach of Affair

(Link) If a basketball coach has a 3-year fling with a student, it wouldn't be news here unless it was a female coach and a female student. And yep, they are.

1 comment:

LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:

TAMPA - -- Math teacher Jaymee Lane Wallace earned accolades coaching the Wharton High School girls varsity basketball team to two district titles, but several of her players told police she had a secret.

They accused Wallace of having an 18-month sexual relationship with one of their teammates that many of them discussed but didn't report until Tampa police began asking questions five months ago.

Wallace, 28, of 16392 Compton Palms Drive, surrendered Monday on an arrest warrant charging her with lewd and lascivious battery, a second-degree felony. If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in prison. She was released from Orient Road Jail after posting $7,500 bail. Her attorney has filed a not-guilty plea.

Police did not identify the alleged victim, now 17. Police began investigating the alleged relationship in June, after the girl's family contacted authorities. Relatives said Wallace disapproved of the teenager's new girlfriend and got into an argument at the girl's house on Memorial Day. Afterward, the girl told her mother she and Wallace had an affair, police said.

The girl's mother told police in a report released Tuesday that she "feels betrayed" and her daughter is in counseling.

The girl told police the relationship began in December 2002 when she was 14 and Wallace allegedly stapled a note to a graded paper saying she found the girl attractive.
Attorney Says There's No Proof

Wallace's attorney, Joe Bodiford, said the girl and her friends could not produce any love letters, text messages or other proof of the relationship.

"This situation boils down to the credibility of the accuser," he said. "I don't know what has fanned the fire of these girls' hyperactive imaginations. There is not one scintilla of evidence to back this up."

Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said a polygraph test showed the teenager was being truthful about the affair. Also, the other girls and a Popeye's restaurant manager who saw Wallace and the alleged victim together support the girl's story.

The alleged victim told police she destroyed the love letters. Others, including her older sister, testified to having read them. The sister told police she discovered one letter in a pair of pants the younger girl had borrowed, and the alleged victim showed her about 20 more letters.

Detectives could not retrieve the alleged text messages from the phone companies because only the last 14 messages are available, police said.

McElroy said detectives would like to speak with other students to whom Wallace may have made overtures.
Girl, Others Describe Encounters

In the police report, the girl describes how she and Wallace became intimate in 2003, when she was 15, after Wallace drove her and teammates to watch a Final Four game in Lakeland. They parked in the lot of a "factory" on 30th Street, later identified as Yuengling Brewery, and performed oral sex in Wallace's car, police said.

The girl's older sister, now 19, and another teammate said Wallace would shield the relationship by bringing them and the alleged victim on errands, where they would kiss and hold hands, or to her apartment, where the other girl would wait in the living room while Wallace and the alleged victim were in the bedroom. The sister told police she once walked in the room and saw Wallace and her sister naked.

Wallace was relieved of her coaching duties in June, when the police investigation began, and the school district reassigned her to work in the Office of Professional Standards.

The district first questioned the alleged victim and her mother about an inappropriate relationship in March when the mother of another student reported her suspicions, spokesman Steve Hegarty said. At the time, the alleged victim and her mother said they knew nothing, and the district, wanting to be discreet, did not investigate further, he said.

The school also sent a letter to the alleged victim and Wallace and received no response from either, Hegarty said.

Wallace said inthe police report that she and the alleged victim had a "mother/daughter or big sister/little sister" relationship.

The alleged victim said Wallace broke off the relationship in 2004, about a year after Wallace's wedding, saying she wanted to have children and felt guilty about what she was doing to her husband.

In coming forward, the teenager said she was in love with Wallace and did not want to get her in trouble but could not lie to her mother anymore.
School Affected

If Wallace does not resign, the district will recommend to the school board that she be suspended pending the outcome of the criminal case.

A Colorado native and former University of Tampa basketball player, Wallace is married to Craig Wallace, who also teaches math at Wharton and coaches the boys soccer team. She has received superior and outstanding evaluations since joining the staff in 1999.

She coached Wharton's junior varsity basketball team for four years and was the Wildcats' head coach the past two seasons, in which the team went 44-16.

"Since my sophomore year in high school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher," she wrote on her job application to the school district. "I think I could be a role model to motivate and influence students not only to become educated but to become better people."

Records show her only prior arrest is a misdemeanor petit theft charge in 1997. Wallace said on her job application she had left a Wal-Mart store forgetting about the $7 pair of sunglasses she tried on and kept on her head. She said she pleaded no contest and performed 16 hours of community service.

Monday's arrest, which Wharton Principal George Gaffney addressed in a letter sent home to parents, quickly became the talk of the school.

"She is a fantastic person," said John Saxton, whose daughter played basketball last season. "If she is found guilty, I still would not believe it until she told me herself. She is a good woman, and I pray her name will be cleared."

Attempts to reach several members of the basketball team were unsuccessful.

The police report quotes several letters from a friend of the alleged victim. The friend writes she would "be hurt if coach gets fired b/c she has done so much for me and you and this team," but in another letter, she writes, "You my dawg and I love you NO MATTER WHAT but I think coach should be punished! I'm not gonna say nothing b/c I gave you my work [sic] and it's none of my business, but GOD is really gonna punish coach b/c she's married and you was a little girl."