August 12, 2014

Ex-Gaston high school wrestling coach found guilty of molesting students

A former high school wrestling coach who had gained the trust of his team and community was sentenced to a prison term that could exceed 40 years.

A former high school wrestling coach who had gained the trust of his team and community was escorted from a Gaston County courtroom by deputies Tuesday after being sentenced to a prison term that could exceed 40 years.

A jury of seven women and five men deliberated about 3 1/2 hours before finding Gary Scott Goins guilty of molesting team members.

Goins, 46, was accused of committing sex crimes against three former members of his wrestling team between 1998 and 2004.

The jury found him guilty on 17 of the 20 counts against him. Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell sentenced Goins to a minimum of 34 years, 10 months in prison and a maximum of 43 years, four months. Defense attorney Brent Ratchford gave notice of appeal.

Several members of Goins’ and the victims’ families were in tears when the verdict was read.

Goins’ three accusers, now young adults, were in the courtroom sitting with family and friends.

After the jury’s verdict, one of the victims came forward and told the court he wanted to say he was sorry for not speaking up sooner about what Goins did to him.

“I could have stopped this from happening,” he said.

As as he looked back at what he called his “indifference,” the man said: “I will not let it happen again. That’s one good thing to come out of something so evil.”

Directing his comments to another victim, the man urged him to “stand true and proud. We can overcome. You can overcome.”

Caldwell said trust had been violated “in homes, public schools taxpayers support and in public property.”

Caldwell said he wasn’t going to judge the school system, but he noted that during the trial “we’ve heard various officials were alerted about problems and nothing was done.”

Meanwhile, he said “the coach kept bringing home the gold.”

During the trial, which began July 17, prosecution witnesses described numerous sexual advances by Goins, often under the guise of training. They testified the incidents, including oral and anal sex, occurred in hotel rooms on overnight trips and at their homes, the coach’s apartment and school.

One witness described sessions of “mental training,” which took place in the teen’s locked bedroom. He said the motivational sessions involved different scenarios narrated by Goins, including one for a car race, while the witness’ eyes were closed. The witness said that the first time Goins told him to “grab the throttle,” it was Goins’ finger; the next time, “it was his penis in my hand,” the prosecution witness said.

“I’m proud of the three young men who were brave enough to come forward,” said Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell after the verdict. “And I thank the jury for listening closely. I’m very happy the judge gave him (Goins) the maximum that he could.”

The Observer’s policy is not to publish the names of sexual abuse victims.

Goins testified during the trial that he never had any sexual contact with his athletes.

In an emotional address to the judge, Ratchford said Goins had “tried to serve his community” for about 20 years and recalled a conversation the two had earlier in the week.

Ratchford noted that Goins “gave his life to Christ in 2008 and changed the way he viewed things and acted.”

Struggling for words, Ratchford explained that Goins said that “God never promised it would be easy” and that if this was the plan God had chosen for him “he’d stick to it.”

“I’ve grown to know him and his family,” Ratchford said. “I stand here proud to be his lawyer.”

The state had sought the maximum sentence for Goins, but Ratchford asked Judge Caldwell to give him 20 years “at the most.”

Goins’ wife, Angela, told Caldwell “it would be really difficult to raise four kids on my own, and I hope you listen to what Mr. Ratchford said.”

When Goins faced the judge, he said in a voice that cracked with emotion “I thank you for the people who stepped forward for me.”

Caldwell sentenced Goins in the mitigated range, taking into consideration such factors as some positive contributions he’d made to the community, his positive employment history and the support for this family. Goins has no prior criminal record.

But Caldwell said the sex crimes “shake the soul of the community.”

“That kind of conduct brings an element of betrayal,” he said.

The three victims lost friends and were accused of betraying their coach, he said.

“Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of bad blood,” Caldwell said.

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