December 2, 2008

Ex-coach Jonathan Harlan White pleads guilty to sex offenses

December 2, 2008

By Victor A. Patton, Merced (Calif.) Sun Star

A former Los Banos gymnastics coach is looking at several years behind a different set of parallel bars, after pleading guilty to 15 counts of child molestation. Jonathan Harlan White, 29, entered pleas in Merced Superior Court on Monday for an illicit relationship with a 13-year-old gymnastics student at the Westside Academy of Gymnastics in Los Banos.

Prosecutor David Sandhaus said White's trial was scheduled to begin Monday, but the defendant decided to enter the pleas. The counts included lewd and lascivious acts with a child under age 14, sexual intercourse and oral copulation with a child under age 16.

Kirk McAllister, White's attorney, couldn't be reached by the Sun-Star's deadline.

The crimes took place at the school and White's home. White also wrote inappropriate letters to the victim, and he admitted to police that he had sexual intercourse with her, Sandhaus said.

White faces 19 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 16.

Sandhaus described White as a manipulative person who used his position as a coach to abuse the girl. "Coaches are in a position of not only trust, they are a big influence (in children's lives)," Sandhaus said. "We need to have people in place that we can trust, who will not sexually take advantage of children."

White will have to register as a convicted sex offender. The family of the victim contacted Los Banos police on Oct. 23 last year about an improper relationship between their daughter and White. He was arrested shortly afterward.

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