Scott Goins’ conviction in August for molesting several members of the East Gaston High School wrestling team will stand, the N.C. Court of Appeals announced Tuesday.
Goins, a teacher and the school’s longtime wrestling coach, was sentenced to almost 35 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting three team members between 1998 and 2004.
Goins appealed. During an Aug. 24 appearance before the state’s second-highest court, defense attorney James R. Parish argued that Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell of Gaston County erred during the trial by allowing one of the charges against Goins to stand despite insufficient evidence. Parish also challenged Caldwell’s decision to allow evidence of Goins’ supposed “hazing” techniques against his wrestlers while blocking evidence that attempted to show bias by one of the accusers.
In an opinion authored by Chief Judge Linda McGee and released Tuesday, a three-judge appeals court panel found no error with Caldwell’s decisions.
The trial cast a lurid light on Goins’ wrestling program, and it ended with allegations by the prosecutor that leaders in Gaston County Schools central administration and at the school kept Goins in his job despite complaints by parents dating back 15 years or more.
In one example, according to court documents, Goins had a 14-year-old member of the team sleep in the same bed with him during an out-of-town wrestling camp. During the night, the boy testified that he awoke to find Goins using the wrestler’s hand to masturbate himself. In all, the episode repeated itself more than a dozen times during future trips.
On another trip, and as Goins watched, the youth testified that he and another younger wrestler were stripped to their underwear by upperclassmen in a hotel room, marked up with lipstick and mascara, then forced to assume sexually explicit poses, according to trial testimony. Goins took photographs.
Another former wrestler testified that in 2013, Goins asked him to kill him for what the coach had done to the wrestler and other team members. The wrestler said he tried to strangle the coach but that Goins later regained consciousness.
At trial, Goins denied ever having sexual contact with any of his accusers. Any hazing was instigated by team members, not himself, he said.
As part of the appeal, Parish argued that prosecutors had not proved whether a sexual act orchestrated by Goins with one of his wrestlers occurred in North Carolina or out of state. The court ruled that the prosecution presented sufficient testimony that the incident occurred in the wrestler’s bedroom while his parents were at work.
Parish also challenged the hazing testimony, saying it was prejudicial and lacked “sufficient commonality” with the alleged sexual misconduct.
McGee, however, wrote that the hazing evidence tended to show that Goins “exerted great physical and psychological power over his students, singled out smaller and younger wrestlers for particularly harsh treatment, and subjected them to degrading and often quasi-sexual situations.”
As for blocking testimony that might have shown bias by one of the accusers, McGee said the trial revealed an “overwhelming” amount of evidence against Goins, and that the debated portion likely would not have changed the verdict.