Coach not guilty of assault but gets 18 months in jail

Ato Stephens being escorted from court on 21 Feb. (Photo courtesy: Cayman 27)

Former track and field coach Ato Stephens has been found guilty not guilty of two counts of indecent assault and one count gross indecency but found guilty of misuse of an ICT network at the end of a trial regarding allegations that he acted inappropriately with a 14-year-old female athlete.

Judge Michael Wood rendered the verdict in the Cayman Islands Grand Court on Thursday, 3 August 2017. He said based on the evidence presented in court, he found enough inconsistencies to cause reasonable doubt regarding the gross indecency and indecent assault charges. He also noted there was a lack of investigation by the police when the issue was first raised, including that some witnesses were only interviewed close to the trial.

The trial was heard by the judge alone.

Stephens has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for the misuse of an ICT network charge. He was returned to HMP Northward, where he has been detained since being extradited to island earlier this year.  He will be deported upon the completion of his sentence.

Stephens, 38, represented Trinidad and Tobago at multiple Olympics and is married to Cayman Islands sprint queen Cydonie Mothersill, who won gold in the 200m at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

During the trial, police interviews from the girl were played in court. In those, she detailed how he sent her WhatsApp messages requesting nude and semi-nude photos. She said she sent some of her wearing only her underwear but never nudes. Stephens acknowledged he did this and apologized, saying he was not sure what motivated him to do so.

He said he started messaging the athlete after he saw her demonstrating what he considered to be flirtatious behaviour. The former coach said this began after a meet in which the girl did not win a medal and was feeling down.

However, Stephens was adamant that he never touched the teen inappropriately, despite her allegations that he groped her while in his vehicle on the way home from practice.

The allegations were brought to light after the girl’s mother found the messages on her phone and confronted her daughter and then Stephens. The girl said she sent the photos because she feared being kicked off the team.

Stephens said the mother called him over to their house and “told me about one message, and I immediately apologised. I told her I was sorry for my inappropriate behaviour. She told me she was going to take it to the law, which I understood to be the police.”

However, the next day, the three-time Olympian left the Cayman Islands. “My wife found out the next day, and she was upset. She told me to leave the house. I called a friend of mine who owns apartments but he didn’t have any rooms available. So, I decided to go to my home in Florida,” he told the court earlier in the trial.

He was extradited in February of this year to face the charges.

As an athlete, Stephens represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics but never advanced beyond the heats. He also ran at the IAAF World Championships in 2001, 2005 and 2007. He won a bronze medal for his home country at the 2003 CAC Championships, and took the silver at the 2005 edition.

He was banned from competition for two years after failing a drugs test at an international competition in May 2009, testing positive for Oxandrolone and Stanozolol, both steroids, as well as Tamoxifen, a testosterone-boosting drug.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Stephens unsuccessful in appealing conviction – Cayman Sports Buzz

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