It was an excruciating blow for former Southwestern football coach Dale Anderson when he was found guilty last month of a crime he insists he did not commit.
But yesterday in Jefferson Circuit Court, a silver lining incredibly emerged. Anderson, 58, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing a young boy in the ‘80s when he was a teacher and coach at St. Raphael in Louisville.
But in exchange for resolving cases involving two additional victims with an Alford plea – and for waiving the appeal of issues that came up in the trial last month – the Commonwealth has agreed to shock probation for Anderson after just 180 days.
In March (including credit for 49 days already served), Anderson could very well be a free man.
“Really, it was an offer we could not refuse,” said local attorney Scott Foster, who represents Anderson. “There were some appealable issues from the trial. We knew it. The Commonwealth knew it.
“But instead of going through that process, we agreed to this deal,” Foster added. “Dale just wants to get home to his family. He knows what he did do and what he didn’t do. He doesn’t care about the conviction at this point. He just wants to get on with his life.”
In court yesterday, Anderson took the Alford plea on two counts of 3rd degree sexual abuse, involving two other victims who came forward last year. Both of those men were also students at St. Raphael in the ‘80s. In taking the Alford plea, Anderson did not admit guilt – but did admit the Commonwealth had enough evidence to convict.
Anderson must also enter a treatment program for sex offenders and remain on the sex offender registry for the rest of his life.
Foster noted there are “no guarantees” that the judge will agree to the shock probation, but noted “when the Commonwealth recommends it, the judge usually goes along with it, barring any unforeseen circumstance.”
It took a Jefferson Circuit Court jury less than three hours to find Anderson guilty of charges that he sexually abused a young boy at last month’s trial.
Anderson was convicted of sodomy, attempted sodomy and sexual abuse. The verdict came following two days of testimony. The victim, now 47, told the court that the abuse at the hands of Anderson came over three decades ago when Anderson was his science teacher and coach.
The victim testified that he became Anderson’s “teacher’s pet,” but the attention eventually became sexual in nature. The man told the jury he modeled underwear for Anderson in the basement of the home of Anderson’s parents, and that led to the first incident of sexual abuse. The victim said he was “11 or 12” at the time.
He said two other abuse incidents occurred in the pool at the home of Anderson’s parents. The victim told the jury he was “scared and screaming” throughout the attack. One of the incidents was interrupted by a neighbor, the victim testified.
The victim said after the third incident, Anderson started to ignore him and give more attention to other students at school. “He had a way of twisting things to where it was always my fault,” the victim said. The victim testified he was “too scared” to tell anyone about the abuse until two years ago, when he reported the incidents to the Louisville Crimes Against Children task force.
“When you’re a kid, you just want it to go away,” the victim said. “You don’t want to think about it. You don’t want to tell anybody. You don’t want to take that chance.”
A detective with the unit helped the victim make contact with Anderson through Facebook messages, text messages and recorded phone calls, which proved to be key evidence for the prosecution.
The victim read the messages and texts out loud to the jury. The messages and texts included casual conversation as the two caught up, but the victim also brought up the sexual encounters and asked if Anderson would want to call or meet again.
In three recorded phone calls with detectives present, the victim told Anderson he was trying to figure out “who he was,” and needed someone to talk to. The victim told Anderson he was struggling in his marriage, abusing alcohol and wondering whether he was gay.
“I obviously did something I shouldn’t,” Anderson told the victim on the call before agreeing to meet with him.
The popular ex-coach was taken into custody by Louisville Metro Police on Aug. 16, 2014, outside Austin’s, a restaurant on U.S. 42 in Louisville. Foster tried to poke holes in the case by questioning the victim’s timeline and by producing a letter, allegedly written by the victim to Anderson when he was in eighth grade, praising Anderson and claiming he was “jealous” when Anderson paid attention to other students. The victim said he did not recall writing the letter.
Foster also asked whether the victim was coached through the police-recorded phone calls and was setting “traps” to incriminate Anderson. The victim replied he wanted to hear Anderson admit to the abuse.
In closing arguments, Foster re-read portions of the letter and pointed out it seemed to show appreciation for Anderson. Foster noted that the victim wrote that he hoped to one day instill the lessons he learned from Anderson into the lives of his future children, and called Anderson “a hell of a human being.”
Foster also tried to chip away at the victim’s account of what happened during the incident in the swimming pool, arguing that if the supposed sexual encounter was interrupted by a neighbor, then prosecutors should have produced that neighbor as a witness.
Alicia Gomez, the Commonwealth’s assistant attorney, countered that the incident took place over 30 years ago and no one remembered the identity of the neighbor.
In her closing statement, Gomez focused on the victim’s ability to recall not only the layout of the pool, but also the interior of the basement where the abuse took place. She said the victim would only know those details if he had been there.
“There is no middle ground here,” Gomez said. “One person is telling the truth about what happened...there is no middle ground. Either this happened or it didn’t -- and it did happen.”
Anderson and Foster still maintain that it did not happen. “We couldn’t let Dale testify in trial … that rarely goes well in a sexual abuse case,” Foster said yesterday. “It was a gamble. The tapes were damning. We knew there were no guarantees, but we were devastated by the outcome.
“Dale was trying to help this man, who reached out to him after all these years,” Foster added. “How could he have known he was being set up? “Not once did Dale admit any guilt and that was important to him,” Foster continued. “That’s why he had to go to trial … he’s innocent and he wanted to defend himself in court.”
Foster said Anderson is currently incarcerated in the Jefferson County Detention Center. Anderson is being held in protective custody and is not in the segregated jail population.
Anderson was Southwestern High School’s first head football coach. He guided the program for 19 years, compiling a 108-98 won-loss ledger. Anderson resigned abruptly four games into the 2011 season after a “personnel issue” was reported involving the coach.
Although the FBI and the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office conducted a subsequent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Anderson’s departure from the school system, no local charges were ever brought.