Friday, June 26, 2009

Former Sonoma Coach Tatton Update

Sonoma Valley soccer coach faces more charges in sex case

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Published: Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 4:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 4:11 p.m.

Lawyers for a former Sonoma Valley youth soccer coach now facing more than 30 counts of inappropriate sexual activity with one of his teenage players are trying to obtain the girl’s health records.

But that brought a strong rebuke from prosecutors as a preliminary hearing was set to begin in Sonoma County Court Thursday for Gregory Vance Tatton, 43, and ultimately led to a delay in the hearing until the issue is resolved.

Tatton entered not guilty pleas to an amended criminal complaint that added 21 additional charges against the former soccer coach. He was initially charged with 10 counts.

Tatton, who now lives in Southern California and is free on $150,000 bail, is charged with 18 counts of having sex with the girl, seven counts of lewd conduct and six counts of oral copulation with her.

None of the alleged acts include allegations of force, but by law minors cannot consent to sexual activity with adults. The girl, who was a player on Tatton’s under-17 Sonoma Valley traveling soccer team, was 15 and 16 years old at the time of the alleged incidents, according to court documents.

Tatton’s lawyers said Thursday they are seeking information about the girl’s school history and mental health care. They have subpoenaed documents from three high schools the girl attended and “treatment and counseling records from Kaiser Permanente,” said defense attorney Ethan Balogh.

Prosecutor Jason Riehl called the effort to obtain that type of confidential information about the girl and her parents “borderline harassment.”

It is improper to subpoena the girl’s interviews with psychiatrists, psychologists and medical personnel and mental health assessments and diagnoses involving the girl and her parents, Riehl said.

“These are things that very clearly should not be provided to counsel,” he said.

Balogh of San Francisco and fellow defense attorney Tamara Rice Lave of Berkeley also subpoenaed records believed held by the girl’s mother, apparently including calendars.

Judge Arthur Andy Wick said the court has already received some subpoenaed records from the girl’s current high school and Kaiser, and they have remained under seal.

Wick set a July 23 hearing discuss which records may be disclosed.

The preliminary hearing was reset for Aug. 13, after which Wick will decide if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

According to court documents, the girl revealed the sexual relationship to a psychologist, who alerted law enforcement.

Sheriff’s detectives said Tatton arranged to get the girl out of school during the day for get-togethers. After the parents removed her from one high school, Tatton was seen driving by her new campus, the girl’s mother said.

In December 2007, the parents got a restraining order against Tatton after they said they learned of several inappropriate incidents.

Investigators say most of the alleged sexual acts occurred in Sonoma County, but at least one happened during a soccer trip to Southern California.

In May, Tatton turned down a plea bargain after a closed-door mediation session. According to a member of the girl’s family, the deal would have included a sentence of about 4 1/2 years in prison.

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  1. AUGUST 28, 2010 UPDATE


    Former girls soccer coach Gregory Tatton, 43, received a sentence Wednesday that the mother of his victim called, "a misdemeanor sentence for felony behavior."

    Tatton pleaded no contest in July to nine felony counts of sexual misconduct with a former player who was 15- and 16-years-old at the time.

    As part of the plea agreement, Tatton was sentenced Wednesday to a year in county jail, but with good behavior, he could be out in as little as 273 days.

    The 43-year-old sex offender had originally been charged with 20 counts of sexual misconduct. Tatton coached an elite girls traveling team that played games from San Diego to far Northern California. Some of the sexual acts occurred during road trips, others occurred in the Sonoma Valley, sometimes in Tatton's vehicle.

    In addition to the year in jail, Tatton will be on probation for five years, has to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, perform 40 hours of community service, pay restitution and attend the SAFER program for sex offenders, among other terms of his sentence.

    Prior to sentencing, the victim, her mother and her father addressed the court. While they did, Tatton looked down at the defense table, avoiding any eye contact with the family.

    The victim told the court that she fears for her safety because Tatton knows where she is and knows who her friends are.

    Choking back tears, she said, "As a result of this, life has been altered in every way possible." And she talked about how in the last four years, she's attended three different high schools and played on two different club soccer teams.

    "His actions have made my life one big secret," she said. "My past has made me a person who fears people, a person I do not want to be. My past gives me anxiety and emotional distress, and I am constantly frustrated with myself and those around me, but most importantly, Tatton has humiliated me as a human being."

    The young woman's father said he would love for Tatton to be "on death row."

    He told the court that his family and Tatton, "ate, drank, and vacationed together. This was the trust level of a family member."

    "I pray that this doesn't happen to any daughter again," he said.

    The father said that Tatton has the ability to manipulate people. "This did not stop with us," he said. "He manipulated the district attorney's office for a shorter sentence."

    The probation department recommended Tatton receive a sentence of eight years and four months in prison while the district attorney's plea agreement was for a year in county jail.

    The victim's mother told the court that three years ago, she and her husband told Tatton to stay away from their daughter.

    "He's shown no remorse," she said. "He abused his power of authority. And he told her that nobody would believe her."

    "It has changed our world," she continued.

    The woman told her daughter that what happened, "doesn't in any way define you."

    "The minimal sentence is not just," she said. "He's getting a misdemeanor sentence for felony behavior." And she asked the judge to set aside the plea agreement and impose the sentence that the probation department recommended.

    Prior to being sentenced, Tatton also addressed the court saying, "I can't explain how horrible I feel. I'm wholeheartedly sorry for the pain I've caused. I never meant any harm. And I offer no excuses for my lapse in judgment."

    Judge Arthur Wick said he could understand the pain of the family and that there are a variety of sentences that could be handed down. But Wick said it was in the best interest to go forward with the agreed upon sentence.

    After being sentenced, Tatton was handcuffed in court and later led away.



    Greg Tatton's absurd sentence

    We confess to some satisfaction when Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies slapped handcuffs on the wrists of convicted sex offender Greg Tatton and led him off to jail.

    We must also confess that we take personal satisfaction in his conviction because we witnessed firsthand the emotional manipulation, control and exploitation Tatton exercised as a coach of teenage girls. His influence on the lives of his team members and their families bordered on the sociopathic.

    Tatton indulged in a deliberate, calculated, predatory seduction of a teenage girl, of her parents, of an entire community of soccer players and the adults who supported and managed the sport in the Valley.

    But satisfaction with his conviction does not translate into satisfaction with his sentence. When Tattton told the court, "I never meant any harm. And I offer no excuses for my lapse in judgment," he revealed himself to be a cynical, unrepentant criminal, still moving words around the legal checkerboard to best advantage, rather than honestly exploring the black abyss of his own heart.

    He never meant any harm? What a staggering statement. For months he twisted the life of a naïve and innocent young girl like he might an inflatable sex toy. He conducted the emotions of his victim and her family like a band leader.

    Lapse of judgment? What an incomprehensibly inadequate explanation for an extensive pattern of selfish, self-indulgent, narcissistic criminal behavior. If one thing is clear about Greg Tatton it is that he didn't care about the harm he caused his victims. To explain his behavior as a "lapse of judgment" is to suggest that a man who rapes a woman simply misunderstands the meaning of consent. Sorry about that, I didn't realize I violated you. I guess I just had a lapse of judgment.

    Greg Tatton was a petty potentate in a kingdom of hopes and dreams he exploited brilliantly, orchestrating the expectations of parents that college scholarships for their girls lay in the path ahead if they trusted him while he piped their children out of Hamelin.

    Nothing he has said or done since his arrest suggests he even remotely understands the depth and deliberate nature of his depraved behavior. And that is why the plea bargain agreed to be Sonoma County prosecutors is equally incomprehensible.

    Tatton was originally charged with 26 felony counts. As evidence was sifted the number was reduced to 20. Prosecutors routinely overcharge, knowing that in the game of courtroom poker you need enough chips to cover all your bets. Tatton was looking at a possible sentence of 18 years in prison when the D.A.'s office agreed to a no-contest plea on nine counts. His sentence was a year in county jail which, with good behavior, could be reduced to as little as 273 days.

    That is simply not justice.

    The swath of Greg Tatton's destructive behavior runs deep. His victim is scarred for life. His ex-wife and his own children must carry their profound wounds far into the future. They will all be struggling with the wreckage Tatton left in his wake long after he is out of jail and free to exercise his considerable charm and deceit outside the circle of his ruined relationships.

    A press release from the D.A.'s office claims, "This man took advantage of a position of trust and has been held accountable." We cannot imagine a more inadequate explanation for an absurdly light sentence. Greg Tatton should be in state prison. For years.

    - David Bolling



    Slap on the wrist

    EDITOR: I am appalled and outraged by the light sentence given to Gregory Tatton for his ongoing sexual abuse of a teenager (“Ex-coach ‘humiliated me,’ girl says,” Thursday). Tatton is quoted as calling the repeated assaults “a lapse in judgment.” Lapses in judgment do not last for months or years. This was planned, conscious abuse of a young woman, causing her great physical, emotional and spiritual harm. Tatton was in a position of trust, both as a soccer coach and a friend of the victim’s family. He betrayed that trust in the worst way imaginable and should pay the heaviest fine possible.

    One year in jail and lifetime registration as a sex offender for repeated abuse may seem serious to the judge, but to me and any person of any gender who has been abused or assaulted by someone they trusted, it does not come close to fitting the heinous crimes this person committed or their costs to society.

    Nine out of 10 sexual assaults are estimated to go unreported. Of the one in 10 that is reported, the rate of prosecution is dismal, and from there the rate of conviction gets even worse. The least our court system could do is apply appropriately harsh sentences to the few that make it this far.

    Shame on you, Judge Arthur Wick.



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Over the years my opinions have changed but this will never change: Jesus Christ, Lord, God and Savior, died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay for my sin.