Former coach sentenced to 60.5 years


A former coach found guilty of raping a high school athlete has been sentenced to more than 60 years in prison.

His victims called him a monster and evil.

Zachary Gibson, 32, was transported from jail Thursday to the courtroom of Wood County Common Pleas Judge Joel Kuhlman.

A jury in April found Gibson guilty of three counts of rape among other sexually related crimes.

Gibson said he was innocent of the charges and plans to appeal the sentence.

The victim in the 2022 case which involved sexual battery spoke and called Gibson a monster.

“You made me not trust people and made me believe everything that happened was my fault,” the male said.

Gibson used his position as coach to hurt not help people, called us liars and made us say what happened to a bunch of strangers at trial, he said.

He asked for a maximum sentence.

Wood County Assistant Prosecutor Charles McDonald said each charge “was the worst form of the offenses” and that higher sentencing range should be imposed.

Gibson groomed his victims with alcohol and videotaped his rape of an unconscious minor, he said, and created a video “and that’s the worst form of pandering not to mention the subject matter.”

The defendant showed a complete lack of remorse and called the sexual assault of a minor a “hook up,” he said.

The mother of the rape victim in the 2023 case said she placed her trust in the wrong person and was led to believe Gibson had her son’s best interest at heart.

She said she struggled with the guilt of putting her son in harm’s way.

“I never imagined someone could be so evil. I never imagined someone I trusted would be capable of such disturbing acts,” she said.

Her son, who was barely 15 years old at the time of the crime, had been made to feel he was to blame, she said. A former 4.0 gpa student, his grades have suffered and he has missed several days of school.

“His pain and suffering will always be with him,” she said.

“He did deny the charges against him, as he is entitled by law to do,” said defense attorney Sara Roller.

She asked for a sentence to allow her client to see the light of day again and attempt to be a normal member of society.

Kuhlman rejected Roller’s request to merge the three rape charges as well as two gross sexual imposition charges as they happened within minutes and could not have constituted more than one count.

“This court, through the course of trial, observed the conduct in each count referenced by defense counsel,” McDonald said. “The court saw a separate (action) for each count.”

Gibson recorded the event and “when you are attempting to complete illegal conduct and you have to stop to reposition the situation, including the victim, to add additional elements … we are talking about separate and distinct acts,” he said.

Kuhlman said he had received a voluminous number of letters from the victims and their family and friends as well as in support of Gibson.

Gibson, when given the opportunity to speak, said he had been coaching since 2016 and nothing like this had happened until he got to Bowling Green.

A man sitting with the victims yelled “bullshit,” which prompted Kuhlman to ask for silence or face contempt.

Gibson continued to say his connection with his players was his strongest asset.

“My ability to connect with my players is something I was extremely proud of,” he said.

He did admit to providing alcohol to minors and said he should have found a smarter way to connect with them.

“I’m innocent on all other charges and I ask for fairness and mercy to allow me to come home some day and see my family,” Gibson said.

Kuhlman addressed Gibson’s claim of innocence.

“It was very evident throughout the course of the trial … that you are guilty. This is not a close call by my viewing of the facts,” he said.

Kuhlman said he was frustrated to hear about Gibson’s coaching experience because that was the position he used to take advantage of these kids.

Their age and your relationship with them facilitated the conduct, Kuhlman said.

He referred to a 2010 case in Hardin County where Gibson was found guilty of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. He had been arrested in a park restroom after village police were alerted to text messages Gibson had sent to a 14-year-old boy.

That offense “is eerily similar to the cases here,” he said.

Kulman imposed a minimum sentence of 60.5 years and a maximum of 66 years.

After his release from prison, Gibson will be required to register as a Tier III sex offender, meaning he will have to register every 90 days for life.

Gibson was indicted twice, in 2022 for inappropriately touching a juvenile and possessing an obscene photo of that same juvenile.

The offenses occurred while Gibson worked with the baseball and basketball teams at Bowling Green High School. He was employed by Fastrak Performance, which has since closed.

He was indicted again 2023f for three counts of rape of another juvenile who reportedly was unconscious, six counts pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor or impaired person for creating a video of the event, three counts gross sexual imposition, one count disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, and two counts failure to comply with underage alcohol laws.

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