CANTON, Ohio — Just a little more than a month following his arrest on accusations that he secretly photographed students in the showers of the Jackson High School locker room, former freshman basketball Coach Scott Studer plead guilty on Wednesday to the charges.
Images of the students were found on his home computer as federal postal officials were executing a search warrant on an unrelated case at the Jackson Township home where Studer, 46, lived with his mother.
Prosecutors on Wednesday say they have now communicated with 112 victims who have been identified from the images on Studer’s computer and other media that was confiscated during that investigation.
Studer was indicted on eight felony charges of illegal use of a minor in nudity oriented material.
The charges amount to one for each year that he was accused of taking the pictures starting in 2005.
After pleading guilty to each of the counts Studer offered an apology.
“I’d like to apologize to all the people that I embarrassed and hurt with my bad decisions, the administration staff of Jackson local schools, parents of our basketball family, the students of Jackson, the coaching staff and most importantly the ones that I hurt so much and care about so much, the basketball players,” said Studer.
“I’m so sorry for the bad things that I did. I always talked to my players about trust and respect and family. My bad decisions went against everything that I ever talked about. I wish that I could take it all back and make everything better for them but I can’t,” he added, concluding “I hope someday they can find it in their hearts to forgive me but I understand if they can’t, thank you.”
Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett read statements from parents and from victims, all of whom talked about betrayal.
“With time and the destruction of these videos, the knowledge of their existence and of the crime will fade but the pain and sadness of the betrayal will linger a very, very long time,” wrote the parent of one of the victims.
One of Studer’s former players wrote, “You were more than a coach to me, you were my hero,” adding “somewhere inside you was a beast that only hungered to use us for its sick fantasies we trusted you betrayed us.”
Prosecutors also detailed more of how Studer was able to carry out his crimes for so long without being detected.
Hartnett said there were dozens of recordings that she is satisfied started in 2005.
Many of them were initially labeled by Studer, but she said the task became too cumbersome because he admitted he would secretly take the photos as many as 30 times during each of the eight seasons.
She said before 2005 cameras small enough for him to hide were not easily available.
Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero explained that “basically Mr. Studer would place them in a box or a shoe and put them in the locker room, face the shower and put towels over them and adjust them where he would be able to film the victims while they were in the shower.”
Hartnett said during their investigation Studer’s computers were carefully examined, including e-mails, to see if there was any evidence that the photos were shared or if Studer ever discussed what he was doing with anyone else and they were satisfied that he kept them to himself.
Judge Frank Forchione said he accepted the pleas and agreed to fast track the case because his priority was to protect the victims.
“At some point the state of Ohio has to file what is called discovery,” he explained to those in the courtroom, adding “the discovery would have to list every potential witness in this case which in this case would be the 70-100 boys that could be witnesses and potential witnesses.”
“By the court resolving this today, I’m allowing these names to remain private and they will not be made public,” said Forchione.
He explained that by settling the case the victims could return to their classes and to work and their families could go into the Christmas holiday without having to worry about an invasion of their privacy.
Forchione sentenced Studer to 15 years in prison. Although he could have been sentenced to more, the judge told Fox 8 News afterwards that because there was no evidence that Studer shared any of the photos, and because the accusations never went beyond voyeurism, the sentence was appropriate.
When sentencing Studer he called the crimes “horrible.”
“As a former athlete I can tell you locker rooms are a sacred place for inspiration, motivation and you used it for your own self-gratification,” said the judge.
“I don’t think there’s any question you have a very tortured soul to take advantage of these young men and your penalty will be severe, and not just the penalty of the clanging of the bars when they close but I think you are going to find yourself ostracized from this community forever,” said Forchione.
In addition to the fifteen year sentence the judge ordered Studer to pay a $5,000 fine, saying he has 90 days in which to pay it.
But Forchione said he did not want the fine to be paid to the court.
He ordered Studer to pay it to the families of the victims of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
“I don’t care where that money comes from, but something good is going to come from this very awful situation,” said Forchione.
After sentencing the father of one of his victims, who spoke anonymously, said he was happy to be able to put the case behind him.
“We are satisfied with the sentence and we are going to move on,” said the father “For the Jackson community it’s sad these boys have gone through, we are just going to push on, that’s it.”
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