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Curry found guilty

curryA jury found former McCreary Central Basketball Coach guilty of using his cell phone to communicate with a minor under the age of 18 with the intention of soliciting sexual acts.

While both the Prosecution and Defense agreed on the evidence, namely a collection of texts between Curry and the then 15-year old girl, the sides differed on the interpretation of the meaning behind the messages.

The question put before the jury was simply: Were the text messages simply “suggestive and flirty” or were they the start of a plan to engage a young girl in a plan to eventually meet up for an illicit encounter?

At one point, about an hour in to the deliberation, there was a question from the jury sent to the Judge and the attorneys indicated it might mean that the panel could not come to a unanimous conclusion.

After instruction to continue deliberations for a little while longer, whatever dispute must have been resolved as the 7-male and 5-female jury announced their guilty verdict after about an hour and a half of discussion.

As the announcement was made, Curry, 39, dropped his head in disbelief while audible gasps from his wife and family seated in the courtroom could be heard.

The Defense called for a poll of the jury, where each individual member was asked to affirm that the verdict was one they agreed on. At least one jury member hesitated before answering, but did confirm the verdict.

The jury next was asked to determine the punishment for the accused.

The crime, a Class D felony, carries a one to five year possible sentence.

Curry’s Attorney, David Cross, pleaded for a minimum sentence, noting the man had already lost his job, career and reputation. “Let him go back to all he has left, his family,” Cross asked.

Curry’s wife Katie was called to the stand before sentencing, emotionally expressing that life would be difficult for her raising two young children with her husband in jail.

Commonwealths Attorney Allen Trimble asked for a sentence as close to the maximum, claiming the sentence would serve as a deterrent to any potential offenders of the law.

After a further 20-minute deliberation on the penalty phase, the panel decided on a minimum sentence for Curry – one year of incarceration.

After the jury was dismissed, Curry was taken in to custody, and will be formally sentenced on August 22.

Curry will most likely not have to spend the full sentence behind bars as he has already served about 372 days under house arrest – longer than the sentence recommended by the jury.

Circuit Court Judge denied a request for Cross to release Curry under his existing bond until the sentencing date on the grounds that he did not have the authority to make that decision, it would now be in the hands of the Department of Corrections.

Curry will also have to register on the Kentucky Sex Offender Registry for a period of 20 years, Assistant Commonwealths Attorney Robert Stephens confirmed after the trial.

Curry does have the right to appeal the verdict and sentence, and it is unclear if that will be the course of action he decides to follow at this time.

The trail started Monday with Jury selection taking most of the morning session.

The trial began in earnest that afternoon as the Prosecution and Defense presented their opening statements.

Commonwealths Attorney Allen Trimble started proceedings by informing the Jury that this was a serious case, in which a 15-year old girl with a “troubled” home life became entangled with her former coach – exchanging more than 43 pages of texts over a period of several weeks.

Though the messages started innocently, they soon progressed to a more mature nature filled with innuendo and what appeared to be an implied promise to take a more physical turn at some point.

Curry’s Attorney, David Cross, painted a different picture.

In his opening statement Cross admitted that the messages were real, but nothing more than “flirtatious communication between two people.”

Curry, Cross pointed out, denied any intention of engaging in any physical contact with the young girl, and even had broken off communication with her after realizing the discussion had gotten out of hand.

“The proof is going to be that this wasn’t going to happen,” Cross said.

The first witness for the Prosecution, the victim’s grandmother, Liz Ridner, described how she had learned about the text messages and contacted Kentucky State Police Detective Billy Correll.

Detective Correll was the next to the stand.

Assistant Commonwealths Attorney Robert Stephens asked the Detective how he typically handles initial interviews in cases such as this.

Correll stated he often would attempt to downplay the severity of the crime in an effort to make the subject more at ease, possibly allowing them to be more open and forthcoming during the course of the interview.

The Prosecution then played a recording of the interview the Detective had with Curry when he traveled to Adair County High School with a warrant to seize the Defendant’s phone.

In the hour-long discussion Curry admitted to sending the messages, but repeatedly denied any desire to actually start a physical relationship with the girl.

During the interview process Detective Correll asked what Curry meant by some of his text statements, including discussing meeting at a McCreary Central basketball game and “going for a ride” and giving her a “surprise.”

“I know some things may look sketchy,” Curry said at one point. “But there has been no contact.”

“I messed up for six weeks of my life,” Curry stated later in the interview, but later realized it was “wrong” and deleted the girl’s contact information and made no further attempts to contact her.

Curry also admitted to deleting all text messages from the girl from his phone, but stated it was a typical thing for him to do to avoid any potential questions from his wife.

He also stated he was not aware that he was committing a criminal act during the time the text messages were exchanged.

During cross examination Correll admitted that there was no evidence of illicit pictures sent from either party, direct mention of engaging in actual sex, or a definitive plan to meet at a basketball game.

Cross also asked the Detective if, at the time of the interview, he considered Curry to be a sexual predator – referencing a statement Correll made on the interview tape.

Correll replied he did not.

“You told him you didn’t think he was a sexual predator, and you didn’t. Otherwise you would have got him out of Adair County High School,” Cross said.

“Yes sir,” Correll replied.

During redirect Stephens called some aspects of the timeline in to question, asking the Detective to count the number of text messages exchanged between Curry and the victim on November 5, just a day or so before the messages were discovered on the victim’s phone.

After checking the log, the Detective replied there were about 65 messages exchanged that day.

After the Detective’s testimony Judge Ballou called for Court to be in recess for the evening and to reconvene the next morning.

Tuesday morning’s session began with the Commonwealths Attorney presenting a transcript of the text messages sent between Curry and the victim.

Using a male and female staffer the conversations were read aloud in their entirety, with the Jury given a hard copy to follow along with.

The conversations, always initiated by Curry, often started with a question regarding basketball practice, but soon devolved into veiled discussion that could be considered sexual in nature.

At different points in the exchanges Curry describes “tutoring” the girl, and coming to McCreary County to watch a game, and seeing her new car, and he would give her a “surprise.”

At one time Curry states the girl could attend school at Lindsey Wilson, and get a job as Curry’s “naughty nanny.” He stated she could live for free in his basement, and warned she could get “spanked” if she did badly. When she replied she would be good, Curry said she could get “spanked” for being good as well.

Throughout the conversations the victim referred to Curry as “Coach Curry.” At one point he said he wasn’t her “superior” anymore. He also noted he was aware she hadn’t yet received her drivers license,

The victim was called to testify, and told the jury that the tone of the texts had changed as the relationship continued, and she became “scared” and unsure how to reply.

(The Voice will not name the victim in this case due to her still being under age at  the time of the trial.)

While no direct mention of engaging in physical activity was included in the messages, the victim stated she felt the texts became “flirty, like sexual,” in her mind while under cross-examination.

With that the Prosecution concluded its case, turning the floor to the Defense.

The first witness, former Assistant Basketball Coach Dottie Cotton was called to testify that she typically handled all messages to the girls on the team, and was unaware how the victim had obtained the phone number of the coach.

She also stated she was “shocked” when she heard the allegations, noting she perceived Curry as “stand-offish” and “not personable” to the girls on the team while employed as Coach.

Cotton also admitted to calling Curry after she had heard the allegations against him, telling him an investigator had been asking questions.

It was established earlier that Cotton’s call came about two days after Curry claimed to have broken off all communication with the victim.

The final witness for the defense, Adair County High School Principal Troy Young, testified he was unaware of the nature of the allegations when Curry was first interviewed by Detective Correll in his office that November.

Following a lunch break the case resumed with both sides presenting their closing arguments.

Cross reiterated his contention that the messages were nothing more than flirting that may have gotten out of hand, but stressed that Curry repeatedly admitted he had no intention of attempting to have any relation with the girl.

He stressed that Curry had already suffered the consequences of his actions, losing his job and probably any chance of getting another job in academics ever again.

He admitted that some of the texts could be considered “suggestive” but noted Curry had opportunities to pursue a relationship with the girl while he was her coach, but didn’t act on them.

Trimble countered that Curry himself had admitted several times during his interview with Detective Correll that what he did was wrong.

He then referenced several of the text messages, highlighting instances where it appeared Curry was attempting to lure the girl into possibly a more serious relationship.

Trimble stated the girl was fortunate her grandmother found the texts when she did, as there was no doubt in his mind that if the messaging continued, there would have been a more serious crime committed.

“It is rare we catch someone before they commit the act,” he said.

He closed his argument referencing a statement made by Curry’s attorney about the case.

“I agree with Mr. Cross,” he said. “It is what it is. What he left out is that it is a felony.”

Earlier this spring Curry conditionally accepted a plea deal, which would include a three-year sentence (with credit for time served) and registration on the Sex Offender Registry.

Curry later rescinded that agreement, claiming he didn’t fully understand the details as were presented to him by his attorney.

Judge Ballou sided with the defense in that instance, stating if Curry was truly unaware of the full implications of the agreement it would place a huge burden on him that would not be right, but insisted the case would go before a jury in July.

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