Former Connell wrestling coach jailed for sex with student

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldMarch 22, 2014 

An Othello man will do six months in county jail for having a sexual relationship with a female student while he was a wrestling coach at Connell High School.

Camilo Mendez Jr., 32, was told he can serve the Franklin County Superior Court sentence on work release if he's eligible.

He must report to the jail by June 2 or make arrangements for a work release bed date by then, Judge Vic VanderSchoor said.

Mendez had faced a year in prison, but VanderSchoor agreed to go with a sentence below the standard range for the crime since the defendant "was extremely cooperative with the investigation, gave a complete confession and expressed great remorse for his conduct."

Mendez pleaded guilty Feb. 4 to first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor. The relationship reportedly lasted for three months in late 2012 and early 2013 before the teen girl broke it off.

The girl has moved out of the state and told attorneys she preferred not to come back for court proceedings, court documents said.

"(Mendez) has demonstrated great concern for the welfare of the victim by entering a guilty plea and thereby eliminating any need for her to leave her home and return to Washington to testify," Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny wrote in documents.

Mendez was a coach for the boys wrestling team during the 2012-13 season when he met the student. It started with Mendez offering the girl rides home and the two talking about relationship problems he was having with his wife, and soon escalated to them having sex on at least nine occasions, court documents said.

The two claimed it was consensual. However, Mendez was a school employee and the girl was a registered student at Connell High.

The relationship was disclosed to a school officials by a friend of the girl, documents said.

Mendez also has a 2009 felony conviction out of Benton County for possessing cocaine.

He told a state Department of Corrections official in an interview before his sentencing that he recognizes the sexual misconduct case has been devastating for his family and disappointing to his community. He admitted shame for "letting down" his wrestling team, and said he regrets the negative effect his actions had on the high school's wrestling program, a presentencing report said.

Mendez further said the inappropriate relationship is sure to have caused emotional distress, harm and embarrassment for the victim, and acknowledged that he was the adult and should have used his better judgment and set the boundaries.

With this new conviction, Mendez has been ordered to have no contact with young girls, except for his biological children, unless it is approved by his therapist and supervised by another adult. He also is to avoid places where children congregate, to not hold any position of trust or authority involving children, to not possess or drink alcohol and to stay away from sexually explicit material and X-rated movies or adult bookstores.

Mendez was told he's not to have any contact with the girl for five years.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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