The defense attorney for a former Chestatee basketball coach said Tuesday that an extramarital affair the coach had with a student’s mother led the victim to falsely accuse the coach of a sex crime.
The trial for Webster Daniel began Oct. 19 in Hall County State Court with opening statements from attorneys and testimony from the alleged victim. Judge Larry Baldwin II is presiding.
“In this case, you’re going to hear one damning piece of evidence about my client,” defense attorney Joseph Summer told the jury. “And that is that my client and (the girl’s) mother … were having an extramarital affair six weeks prior to the allegations that she made on Nov. 16, 2017. We expect the evidence to show that (the girl) figured out about this affair, became angry with her mother and became very angry at Webster. And when she became angry at Webster, that anger turned into a lie.”
The prosecution, however, laid out the evidence as a “betrayal of trust that became criminal” between a school coach and a student. Daniel was the basketball coach at Chestatee High and was employed as an in-school-suspension teacher for the middle school, Chestatee Academy.
Daniel “engaged in unwanted sexual contact with a juvenile female enrolled as a student” at the high school on Nov. 16, 2017, according to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.
Hall County Solicitor Brooke Jackson said the girl had known Daniel since she was a young child, detailing some of the text and Snapchat conversations before the allegations.
Jackson called the girl to the stand for her to describe the events that “ultimately result in one of her darkest days where she had to quit the sport she loved.”
“She was looking for medicine but she got sexual assault and trauma in return,” Jackson said.
The girl testified she sent a Snapchat to Daniel about her lingering headache and that she needed medicine. Daniel replied she could get medicine from him when he came up from the middle school, the girl said.
Daniel also “was asking me what helped headaches, and that’s whenever he told me that orgasms help headaches,” the girl testified.
“At the time, I don’t even think I really knew what an orgasm was,” the girl testified.
The girl cried as she detailed the allegations from nearly four years ago. The prosecution said Daniel began to massage the girl’s temples before moving his hands down her body.
The accusation filed by Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard alleges that Daniel touched the girl’s breast and pushed his penis against her body.
The girl went to a school resource officer and said she needed to speak with him.
Not knowing the magnitude of what she planned to divulge, the officer advised her to go play in the game and to talk in the morning, Jackson said.
After basketball practice the next morning, the girl went to the school resource officer and told him she was touched inappropriately by her coach, Jackson said.
The girl was interviewed again in February, where she added more details about what happened.
Jackson said she has been consistent in how she has explained what happened.
During his opening statement, Summer said Daniel maintains he is not guilty on all of the charges laid against him. He said his client and the girl did have a close relationship where “Webster thought he was a father figure.”
Summer claimed that a week after the allegation, the girl’s mother confessed about the affair.
Months later, she was interviewed again by law enforcement.
“At that point, (the girl’s) stories change,” Summer said. “Her lies got bigger, and the accusations got more outrageous.”
The girl said on the stand that she was overwhelmed the first time she disclosed the allegations to law enforcement and hadn’t had time to process what had happened.
Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigators originally obtained an arrest warrant for Daniel on a charge of felony sexual assault against a student, but the charge was dropped.
Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said in 2019 that the charge did not apply because he was not a teacher at the school where the girl attended. The case was transferred to State Court.
Prosecutors said this was one of the cases that prompted lawmakers to close what they considered to be a loophole in the law regarding sexual assault on students.
Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, sponsored Senate Bill 117, which defines the offense of “improper sexual contact by a person in a position of trust.” That offense is considered “sexually explicit conduct with a minor for whom he or she has entered into an agreement entrusting him or her with the responsibility of education and supervision.”
Senate Bill 117 became law in July of this year.
Earlier this month, Woodard filed an amended accusation in which Daniel is accused of misdemeanor offenses, which include four counts of simple battery and one count each of simple assault, reckless conduct and sexual battery.
The trial continues Wednesday, Oct. 20.