Brandywine volunteer coach jailed
NILES — A volunteer coach at Brandywine High School who developed a sexual relationship with a student will get jail and probation time for the crime.
Jeffery Brett Deboer, 35, of the 2600 block of 13th Street in Niles, pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct-second degree assault on Sept. 14, 2017. A condition of Deboer’s plea agreement was no prison time for the crime.
Deboer was sentenced by Judge Charles LaSata and ordered to serve 210 days in the Berrien County Jail and five years of probation. He is also required to register as a sex offender. Deboer has 52 days of jail time credit.
Deboer was jailed prior to his sentencing on March 14, when he violated the terms and conditions of his bond.
Deboer’s relationship with the student began when he was serving as a volunteer softball coach for Brandywine High School. The victim was a 17-year-old Brandywine High School student and softball player.
According to court documents, Deboer and the victim talked every day and had sex several times. Their relationship lasted from April 1, 2017 to June 30, 2017.
When administration from Brandywine High School heard student rumors that Deboer was engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a student, they called police to investigate.
On Aug. 28, 2017, a police officer from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department visited the school to speak with staff, the victim and her parents who were notified of the allegation.
In court Monday, the victim addressed how damaging the relationship had been to her life, robbing her of a normal senior year in high school. Because of Deboer’s status as a coach, she saw him as a mentor and would often confide in him, including times when she said she felt upset with her parents. The victim said she had trusted Deboer and that their relationship developed on a personal and intimate level.
The victim said he asked her to lie to her family and friends and keep their relationship a secret. But, the victim said she had to deal with an affront of rumors about them. Even after Deboer pleaded guilty to the crime, the victim said she was continually subjected to stares and whispers wherever she went in public. Additionally, her safety was threatened when her family was contacted by a detective who told her that Deboer’s cell inmate had alleged on April 12 that Deboer was plotting to pay someone money to harm her.
LaSata ruled on Monday that this allegation was unfounded, due to a lack of credibility.
Regardless, the victim described how the allegation caused her to be consistently fearful of her surroundings and that she had to be with an escort in public.
The victim said mounting stress led to illness which caused her to be in and out of the hospital.
Deboer’s relationship with the victim came to an end when Deboer’s family found out. And the victim told the judge to be aware that Deboer’s actions had not only caused her pain, but their collective families pain as well. Additionally, she said she feared someone else could be Deboer’s victim.
“If he can do this to me, he can do this to another young girl,” she said.
When it was his turn to speak, Deboer turned back to look at the victim from his place before the judge. Deboer said he “had not meant to hurt her in any way.” He apologized and asked his family and the victim for forgiveness.
LaSata said Deboer had abused a mentoring relationship to fulfill a selfish desire.
“You took a big chunk out of her life,” LaSata said. “You created a situation that now she has to deal with. It’s natural for a high school student athlete to look to their coach and respect them. You abused in a terrible way that relationship.”
LaSata commended Brandywine Community Schools for investigating when they heard rumors about the inappropriate relationship.
Brandywine Community Schools responds:
Brandywine Superintendent Karen Weimer said all people who volunteer with the school go through a background check, Deboer included. The background check, called CHAT is conducted through the Michigan State Police. She said Deboer’s background check was clean.
“As soon as we were informed about the rumor, we followed procedures and called child protective services and police,” Weimer said. “We are going to continue to work to make sure the measures are taken so that we can provide a safe place for all of our students.”
As of this year, Weimer said school officials will also utilize state and national sex offender registry in addition to ICHAT for pre-volunteer screening.
Weimer encouraged students with information about crimes to contact a trusted administrator or use the OK2SAY program. More information on the crime tip program can be found at: michigan.gov/ok2say.
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