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Four more accuse coach of assault

LAPD interviewed teen girls at Hart district school

Posted: September 25, 2008 9:34 p.m.
Updated: November 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Kevin Thomas

 

Four Hart high school district girls joined the list of alleged victims in the Kevin Lamont Thomas sexual assault case this week, an LAPD detective said Thursday.

The girls accused Thomas of engaging in sexual penetration of a minor and sexual annoyance.
“Sexual annoyance is engaging in sexually explicit conversation with a minor for the purpose of arousal,” Los Angeles Police Detective Dennis Derr said.

The alleged abuse happened over a seven-month period between November 2007 and June 2008, he said.

A letter from the victims arrived on Derr’s desk Sept. 18 describing Thomas’ alleged sexual misconduct against four female William S. Hart Union High School District students. Derr was on the campus of two Hart district high schools Sept. 24 interviewing three of four alleged victims, the detective said. The fourth alleged victim was interviewed at her home.

Thomas was arrested June 10 and charged with five counts of sexual penetration of an underage person, five counts of penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object, one count of lewd conduct with a minor and one count of possession of child pornography.

Thomas was a special education assistant in the Los Angeles Unified School District who used private basketball lessons to allegedly lure girls into sexual scenarios, Derr said. Thomas’ daughter was a standout basketball player at Hart High School in 2007 and earned a college basketball scholarship.

Thomas allegedly leveraged his daughter’s success on the basketball court to gain access to underage girls who wanted to improve their skills on the court.

The initial charges against Thomas were limited to girls from the Los Angeles Unified School District. The Hart district students Thomas allegedly abused knew about the charges against Thomas and even read the news reports in The Signal, Derr said.

“The girls were ashamed to come forward,” he said of the Santa Clarita Valley victims.

The Los Angeles County Distinct Attorney’s office will enter new charges at Thomas’ next court date Oct. 17, Derr said. Convictions on the additional charges could add years to his sentence.

If convicted on all charges currently on file, Thomas could face up to 40 years in prison. The new charges could carry an additional 11 years behind bars, Derr said.

Thomas’ attorney, Robert Nadler, was caught off guard over the new accusations Thursday.
“This is the first I have heard of this,” Nadler said. He declined comment on the new allegations.

At the time of his arrest Thomas was a volunteer football coach at Canyon High School. However, there was no evidence at the time linking Thomas to local girls, Derr said.

Thomas was never a part of the school’s basketball program nor an employee of the district, said Hart district Assistant Superintendent Rochelle Neal.

“It apparently has to do with private training sessions he set up on his own through contact with club basketball,” she said.

The new evidence linking Thomas to local girls concerns school officials and law enforcement.

Parents of a child who had contact with Thomas need to talk to their child to see if he or she was victimized, Derr said. “There may be more victims,” he said.

“I’ve asked the administrators at Canyon and Hart to contact members of the varsity (girls) basketball teams individually and encourage them to report it if they have been victimized in any way,” Neal said.
Thomas was relieved of his volunteer coaching duties after his arrest. School officials drafted a new hiring policy for volunteers in hopes of preventing future cases like this, Neal said.

The first readings of the proposed change occur at the next Hart district school board meeting, she said. “We’ve been getting feedback from administrators and the community, and I think we’ve come up with some strict guidelines now that will protect our students.”

Thomas goes back to court in Van Nuys Oct. 17. “This won’t be a preliminary hearing because we are introducing new witnesses,” said Deputy District Attorney Alisanne Scolnik.

Defense attorney Nadler rejected a deal offered at the Sept. 18 hearing, he said. A miscommunication between the district attorney’s office and his office justified the continuation to Oct. 17.

Scolnik said the terms of the offer were clear, as was the deadline for Thomas to accept the offer.
She said she offered Thomas a three-year deal in state prison; he would also have to register as a sex offender.

Nadler asked for one year in county prison. Scolnik said Nadler is trying to wiggle Thomas free from registering as a sex offender. She said she hopes the new evidence forces Thomas to take a deal.

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