June 25, 2009 UPDATE
Former Sonoma Valley soccer coach arrested on sex charges
By NATHAN HALVERSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Sunday, April 5, 2009 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 5, 2009 at 11:48 p.m.
A former Sonoma Valley Youth Soccer Association coach was in jail Sunday night on charges of having a sexual relationship with a teenage girl on his team.
Gregory Vance Tatton, 43, was arrested late Friday in West Hollywood after a lengthy investigation by Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies.
The investigation began in November 2007, Sgt. Dave Thompson said. At that time, Tatton was suspected of having ongoing sexual relationships with players on his girls’ under-17 traveling soccer team based out of the Sonoma Valley area, Thompson said.
Thompson and another coach described Tatton as a manipulative character who controlled his players and their parents during his more than five years as a coach.
“He would groom people so he could take advantage of them,” Thompson said.
The allegations of sexual misconduct emerged after parents filed a complaint with the California Youth Soccer Association’s northern section in early November 2007, according to a soccer league spokeswoman.
Later that month, the association revoked Tatton’s coaching license and banned him for life. It issued a letter accusing Tatton of “inappropriate interactions with female players under the age of 18 years on multiple occasions.”
Only weeks before the accusations surfaced, Tatton had been charged with a felony for falsifying the registration stickers on his vehicle. That felony charge led the Sonoma Valley Youth Soccer Association, which is a member of the larger California association, to automatically suspend the coach, said Vikki Griggs-Demmin, vice president of the Sonoma Valley association.
As news of his falsified registration stickers spread, other allegations of improper conduct began percolating up, Griggs-Demmin said.
“After that, people were more inclined to believe this was a dishonest person.”
Still, many parents and players were in disbelief, she said.
“He was a coach who inspired a lot of loyalty among his players and the parents,” she said.
Tatton had two daughters who played in the league, Griggs-Demmin said.
Tatton, who joined the Sonoma Valley soccer association in 2002, worked his way up from assistant coach to head coach of the elite traveling teams. He applied for the job held by Pamela Wiley, who is head coach of the girls soccer team at Sonoma Valley High School.
Wiley was forced to fight for her job after parents began urging the high school to appoint Tatton as head coach, Wiley said. She had been a board member at the Sonoma Valley soccer association for 15 years but decided to resign from the board after Tatton, who was also a board member, tried to take her job at the high school, she said.
He had a control over his team that was “unhealthy,” Wiley said. “I couldn’t allow him to take my team,” she said.
The school administration retained Wiley and later that year the allegations about Tatton surfaced.
Sheriff’s deputies opened their 17-month investigation in November 2007, Thompson said.
Detectives recently tracked Tatton to the Los Angeles area, where he was working as a real estate agent, Thompson said. Two deputies were sent to a residence in West Hollywood and arrested Tatton late Friday.
He was booked on five counts of lewd and lascivious crimes against a child ages 14 or 15 when the perpetrator is more than 10 years older, and on five counts of oral copulation with a child under the age of 18, Thompson said. The counts involve a single girl, but investigators believe there are other victims, Thompson said.
“We believe that there are others out there,” he said.
Tatton was held late Sunday in the Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.
Tatton was a familiar face in the county’s soccer community. The Sonoma Valley Youth Soccer Association named Tatton “Board Member of the Month” in August 2006 for creating its development program. He coached the boys’ junior varsity soccer team at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley in 2007.
Detectives are still unraveling Tatton’s alleged sexual involvement with under-aged girls. The Sheriff’s Department asked anyone with information about the case to contact Detective Jake Vivian at the Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Unit at 565-7600.
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April 9, 2009 UPDATE
Tatton set to be arraigned Monday
By David Bolling INDEX-TRIBUNE EDITOR
Greg Tatton, the former Sonoma Valley soccer coach arrested April 3 in West Hollywood on charges of molesting a teenage girl on his 2007 select team, is scheduled to be arraigned in Sonoma County Superior Court Monday morning.
Arraignment proceedings involve the formal reading of charges against a defendant and the defendant's responding plea. Tatton, 43, is charged with five counts of oral copulation with a minor under the age of 18, and five counts of performing lewd acts (which include intercourse) with a minor 14 or 15 years old by someone more than 10 years older than the victim. The victim, a Sonoma Valley resident, was a star member of Tatton's elite, under-17 traveling soccer team. She was reportedly 15 and 16 years old when the sexual contact occurred over an eight-month period, mostly during 2007. At least one of the inappropriate sexual contacts occurred during a team soccer trip, according to Sgt. Dave Thompson, head of the Sheriff's Department's Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault unit.
Thompson said Tatton was returned from Southern California by bus Monday night and spent about four hours in the Sonoma County jail before posting bail of $150,000. Thompson said he did not know who posted Tatton's bail, which would have required a $15,000 cash payment. "We were kind of hoping he'd stay in custody," Thompson observed. "We hope he shows up on Monday." Thompson said he doesn't know where Tatton is staying locally. He had been working as a real estate agent in the Los Angeles area when arrested and gave court officials a Los Angeles-area address that Thompson said he believed belonged to Tatton's sister.
A charismatic, successful and highly competitive soccer coach, Tatton held a powerful position with the Sonoma Valley Youth Soccer Association (SVYSA) as a board member and coordinator of the Select Team Program, which oversees the traveling teams. He had a major influence on the girls he coached, many of whom held him in awe and, according to one former player, "had crushes on him." Playing for Tatton was considered by many Valley girls as the ultimate attainment in league soccer.
But on Nov. 6, 2007, Tatton was arrested on Second Street East by an alert deputy who noticed something strange about the date sticker on his license plate. Tatton, it turned out, had used a digital camera to photograph a current registration sticker, then covered the image in plastic and glued it to his license plate. The Toyota Land Cruiser he was driving had not been registered since 2002. The act was classified as fraud and therefore a felony, and Tatton was booked into the Sonoma County jail. The charges were reduced to misdemeanors in court and were later dismissed after Tatton completed a diversion program. But the arrest came to the attention of the SVYSA and on Nov. 12, 2007, the parent board - California Youth Soccer Association (CYSA) - issued an immediate suspension from all soccer-related activities and demanded surrender of his coaching pass.
On Nov. 16, 2007, the unidentified parents of a player on Tatton's under-17 team sent a letter to the District-V CYSA commissioner complaining that Tatton had repeatedly violated CYSA "risk management policies." Tatton's alleged violations including failure to have a valid drivers license, vehicle insurance and registration, and violation of rooming arrangement rules at out-of-town tournaments.
On Dec 7, 2007, the victim's parents, who had once been close friends of Tatton, sought - and were granted - an emergency restraining order barring him from any contact with their daughter. Tatton had allegedly given the girl a cell phone to remain in contact and had more than one secret rendezvous with her outside her home.
On Dec. 16, 2007, a hearing was held by the CYSA Protest, Appeals and Disciplinary Committee and Tatton was invited to testify in his own defense. He declined to appear and did not submit any rebuttal to the charges.
The committee suspended Tatton from all CYSA activities for life due to his "inappropriate interactions with players younger than 18 years of age on multiple occasions." On Dec. 31, 2007, Tatton's team was officially disbanded by newly-elected coordinators of the SVYSA Select Team Program, the group Tatton had formerly controlled.
In late January 2008, the SVYSA board voted to orchestrate a meeting with the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department to cooperate in the investigation of Tatton's behavior.
In the aftermath of the Tatton accusations, SVYSA vice president Vikki Griggs-Demmin released a statement assuring parents and the public that, in addition to the risk management program managed by CYSA, SVYSA has its own protocols and uses a security firm to conduct fingerprint searches on all coaching and program personnel. Griggs-Demmin added that SVYSA also conducts its own review of driver's licenses of all personnel.
In a prepared statement, Griggs-Demmin wrote, "Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the 1,200 Sonoma Valley children who sign up to play soccer with us each year."
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April 10, 2009 UPDATE
Soccer league tightened screening process after coach dismissal
Val Robichaud Special to the Sun
Three months after firing coach Gregory Vance Tatton in 2007 for “inappropriate interactions” with players on his under-17 girls team, the Sonoma Valley Youth Soccer Association added a mandatory fingerprint check to its risk management program Tatton, 43, had been under investigation by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit since leaving the county in early 2008 and was arrested last week in West Hollywood and charged with having molested a 15-year-old player on his team. He was transferred to Sonoma County Jail on Monday, and released Tuesday after posting $150,00 bail. He will face 10 felony counts when arraigned on April 13.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of the 1,200 Sonoma Valley children who sign up to play soccer with us each year,” said Vikki Griggs-Demmin, vice president of the Sonoma Valley Youth Soccer Association, who added that rumors about Tatton had begun to circulate in mid-2007. The concerns were nothing specific but rather in regards to “his unusual hold over his team,” she said. League officials were unsettled to the point that they began actively looking for something factual, a violation of league rules for example, to force Tatton from his position.
That came in November 2007 when Tatton was arrested for tampering with a vehicle registration tag, with alleged intent to defraud. Parents’ concerns then broadened to include “rooming arrangements at out-of-town tournaments,” according to a California Youth Soccer Association chronology.
In December 2007 an emergency order of protection was served on Tatton. He was then banned for life from participation in all CYSA activities, “due to his inappropriate interactions with players younger than 18 years of age on multiple occasions.” The team, which included Tatton’s daughter, was disbanded.
The episode lead the league to revaluate its screening procedures. “There was a flaw in the previous system,” admits Griggs-Demmin. “We needed to institute something more foolproof.”
As part of its own security screening process, the California Youth Soccer Association runs background checks only on random or select applicants, a protocol that had applied to the Sonoma Valley league.
In March 2008, the SVYSA itself hired a firm to fingerprint all coaches, assistant coaches, managers, and directors. “We have a Risk Management Coordinator who is informed when someone’s fingerprints bring up any conviction for a
serious crime or any arrest for a felony,” according to Griggs-Demmin.
She also said there has been a rededication to “common sense” rules such as players never being alone with an adult, no private meetings or meals and no text messaging. “We rely on parents a great deal,” said Griggs-Demmin, to make sure every interaction is appropriate.”
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Creeper Alert California
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April 14, 2009 UPDATE
Mon 4/13 6 PM
Tatton pleads not guilty Monday
By David Bolling INDEX-TRIBUNE EDITOR
Greg Tatton, the former Sonoma Valley elite soccer coach charged with having sexual contact with a girl on his under-17 select traveling team, appeared in Sonoma County Superior Court Monday morning and pleaded "not guilty" to all 10 counts against him.
A settlement conference was set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 13. Tatton has been under investigation by the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault unit of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department since late 2007. In November 2007, he was suspended for life as a coach by the California Youth Soccer Association after allegations surfaced that he had violated various association rules, including requirements that he carry auto insurance, hold a valid driver's license and not share motel rooms with team members.
According to allegations by both sheriff's deputies and the association's complaint, Tatton's car was not legally registered or insured and he did not have a valid driver's license until shortly before he was stopped on Nov. 6, 2007, for affixing a fraudulent registration sticker to his license plate. Police said they were delayed in their investigation of the case by the reluctance of the victim and her parents to come forward. According to friends of both parties, Tatton and the girl's parents had been close friends at one point, and the parents considered Tatton a mentor for their daughter.
According to other parents who had daughters playing for Tatton, he held out the promise of securing college athletic scholarships for the top players on his team. That expectation helped inspire some parents to lobby for Tatton's appointment to the position of Sonoma Valley High School varsity girls' soccer coach, a job already held by Pamela Wiley. Wiley had to mount a defense of her job, a fight she eventually won.
Criminal charges filed against Tatton include five counts of oral copulation with a minor under the age of 18, and five counts of performing lewd acts (which include intercourse) with a minor 14-or 15-years-old by someone more than 10 years older than the victim. The victim in the case was 15- and 16-years-old during the time the alleged acts were committed.