Wrestling coach acquitted
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Staff Writer
Thursday, 16 May 2013 10:27
It took less than two hours for a jury of seven women and five men to return a not guilty verdict in the sexual battery charge filed against Joseph Bergman Jr. Wednesday evening.
|File photo. Joseph Bergman, left, in court with his attorneys. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Bergman, a former wrestling coach of Genoa High School, testified in his own defense Wednesday morning to conclude the testimony in the three-day trial.
The 29-year-old Genoa man explained his actions on the day in question which included preparing for his departure that weekend for a more than five-month stint at Fort Hood, Mo., for training, part of which he was an instructor.
When the verdict was announced, Bergman let out a gasp and began sobbing. He hugged his attorney, Stevin Groth, and continued wiping the tears from his eyes, even minutes after the jury was dismissed. He weeped openly while hugging his family and friends who were gathered in Judge Robert Pollex's courtroom throughout the trial and the verdict.
Following the verdict Groth said, "Obviously we are extremely happy with the verdict. I believe Joe Bergman has been vindicated after a very long year."
He also extended his sympathy to the female student who was at the center of the case and had testified about the alleged sexual activity which generated the felony charge.
"The jury heard all of the evidence and returned a unanimous not guilty verdict," Groth said.
The teen involved testified about the relationship she had with the coach. Though he admitted from the stand they had a "texting relationship," he firmly denied having any sexual relations with her.
The defendant admitted he "liked" her and that she was a very "attractive young woman," during his testimony.
"I was very fond of her," Bergman told the jurors.
Though he admitted to her having been in his car on the night in question, in the parking lot in front of the movie theaters at Levis Commons in Perrysburg, he said he was just saying goodbye prior to his leaving for his military obligations.
"Clearly now it was very evident I should have used better judgment," Bergman told the jurors in regard to letting her sit in the car.
He also testified that due to these charges he had his concealed carry permit revoked.
Of their texting, Bergman testified, "I did not think that was inappropriate in any way."
Testimony confirmed they had met when he was 28 and she was 17 as she served the wrestling program by logging statistics.
He did not refute having had text message conversations with her on the day in question as well as after she was investigated when the news of the alleged incident was traveling around the Genoa community and school.
Just prior to his being charged and arrested at Fort Hood, those text messages showed and he admitted from the witness stand he was very concerned about the allegations, yet he never asked her why she was lying about their activities on the night in question.
In the one text message he called her "Hon," and in another he texted, "Be calm baby, this will blow over."
Groth's summary revisited his opening remarks regarding the five "L"s which he says does not allow for belief of his client's guilt. The location of their meeting, the logistics of the alleged details, the length of time involved, the lack of investigation and the lies.
Both Groth and lead prosecutor on the case Heather Baker, admitted in their closing remarks that there were many inconsistencies in statements and testimony from various parties involved.
Groth also told the jurors that his client's military service including in Afghanistan and Iraq should not be a consideration. He was serving in the reserves at the time.
"Sympathy plays no part in this decision," Groth told the jurors. "He's in the military. So what. She's a young girl. So what."