Track coach apologises, denies touching teen

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

Former track and field coach Ato Stephens said in court Monday, 31 July, that he is sorry for inappropriate WhatsApp messages between him and a 14-year-old athlete on his team but denied inappropriately touching her.

Stephens, a three-time Olympian for Trinidad and Tobago, took the stand in his own defence against charges of gross indecency, indecent assault and misuse of an ICT network.

He said he started messaging the teen asking for nude and semi-nude photos 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.

Stephens said the messaging and “phone sex” continued until the girl’s mother saw the messages and confronted him.

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, he left the Cayman Islands. Stephens, who is married to 2010 Commonwealth Games 200m gold medallist Cydonie Mothersill, offered the following explanation for his actions: “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 was extradited earlier this year to face the charges.

“Giving evidence is very difficult and embarrassing for me. I am sorry for my inappropriate behaviour with the minor,” the 38-year-old told the court.

While he apologised for the messages, he denied allegations that he touched her inappropriately in his vehicle. Last week, the court heard evidence from the girl of her account of what transpired when the two were said to be alone in his vehicle.

The trial continues.

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