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HERMITAGE, PA. Former basketball coach won't get out of prison early



Published: Fri, August 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The prison term for the former coach ends Aug. 30, 2003.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Parole Board has ruled that Joseph Votino must serve all two years of his prison sentence for corrupting the morals of a minor.

The board rejected a parole request from the former basketball coach and dean of students at Kennedy Catholic High School.

Votino, 45, of Syme Street, Masury, pleaded guilty in August 2001 to one count of corrupting the morals of a minor in a plea bargain that authorities said stemmed from his admission to having sexual relations with three female Kennedy students, all of whom were 17 at the time, between spring 2000 and April 2001.

Judge Michael Wherry of Mercer County Common Pleas Court sentenced Votino to a one- to two-year prison sentence Aug. 30, 2001, making him eligible for parole one year from that date.

He won't get it.

Hearing before board

Lauren Taylor, a parole board spokeswoman, said Votino got a hearing before the board July 3 but parole was denied. The board ordered him to serve the remaining term of his sentence, which ends Aug. 30, 2003, she said.

Votino remains in the minimum-security State Regional Correctional Facility at Waymart near Carbondale, in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Taylor said Votino has the right to appeal the ruling but hasn't done so.

The board said he could be granted another parole interview should the state Department of Corrections recommend that he is ready for parole.

He must have completed a counseling program for sex offenders, however, and have a clear conduct record as a prisoner before a second hearing would be considered, Taylor added.

Inmates are normally granted only one parole hearing a year.

Votino was a fixture in Kennedy Catholic basketball for nearly two decades, leading his teams to six state championships, four in his last four years there.

Hot line tip

His life unraveled quickly, however, when a child abuse hot line got a tip on March 30, 2001, that Votino was having sexual relations with at least one student.

He at first denied the accusation, but the school suspended him April 9 and fired him May 18 based on its own investigation.

Police filed charges against him in June 2001 and he eventually admitted his guilt in a plea bargain.

During his sentencing hearing, Votino apologized "to all the people that I have hurt," adding that he never intended to cause any pain.

Judge Wherry chastised him for violating his position of trust and authority and subjecting the girls to public humiliation.

Authorities said Votino engaged in kissing, hugging and fondling the girls in the school as well as sexual relations with them at his home and at one location in Sharon.

The investigation turned up a fourth possible victim, but the statute of limitations had expired in that case, authorities said.

gwin@vindy.com




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