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Votino deserves prison for illegal, immoral behavior



Published: Sat, June 30, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



We have to ask what kind of man entrusted with the well-being of 370 young people as a dean of students and the reputation of a Catholic high school as its boys varsity basketball coach, would stoop so slow as to take sexual advantage of at least three young women at the school.

When Judge Michael Wherry of Mercer County Common Pleas Court sentences Joseph Votino -- who has signed an agreement with the Mercer District Attorney's office agreeing to plead guilty to corrupting the morals of a minor -- we hope he asks the same question as he considers what punishment is adequate for a man who knowingly took advantage of several of Kennedy Christian High School's female students.

Votino's own actions demand that he contemplate his wickedness in the comfort of a Pennsylvania prison cell.

No excuses: At least in his statements to police, the wayward coach hasn't sought to make excuses for his outrageous behavior. According to the complaint, he admitted that he had engaged in sexual intercourse with the three victims, knowing they were less than 18 when the relationships began and that they were students at the school where he was dean, that he flirted with and seduced the girls and had sexual contact with them on school property during school hours.

Although he could have been prosecuted on more charges, officials decided it would be better for the young women involved if they did not have to testify at a difficult trial. They and their families concurred.

Some of his coaching acquaintances have expressed their disappointment that such an outstanding coach would be remembered not for being one of the most successful high school coaches in Pennsylvania basketball history, but for his untoward action.

But no one forced him to force his attentions on vulnerable girls. He, and only he, decided to have sex with a student before each game he coached. This is not the conduct of a man who should have been an exemplar.

However, Votino should be made an example of what happens to an educator who strays so far across the bounds of propriety. The charge to which he intends to plead guilty carries a maximum sentence of 21/2 to 5 years. There is no doubt that he should receive the maximum.

No other teacher, coach or administrator should think that his or her students are fair game for their predations.




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