Gymnastics Coach Carl Lechner Arrested on Child Abuse and Child Porn Charges

Carl lechner sexual

A longtime coach of youth athletics has been arrested in Broward County, Florida on charges of sexual misbehavior involving minors.  On August 11, 2015, Carl Lechner, a 66-year old gymnastics coach was arrested on charges that he sexually abused a girl who was between the ages of 3 and 7.  The abuse allegedly occurred between 1999 and 2003.  Less than two weeks ago, Lechner was arrested on child pornography charges. On July 31, 2015, Lechner was arrested by detectives with the South Florida Internet Crimes Against Children/Human Trafficking Task Force on seven counts of possession of child pornography, one count of compiling computer pornography, as well as three counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. According to detectives, Lechner owned TAG Gymnastics gym in Weston, Florida from from 1998 to 2010 and in Davie from 1989 to 2000. Until his arrest, Lechner worked as a coach and mentor at Cats Gymanstics-Children’s Gymnastics and Fitness Center in Jupiter, Florida.

Lechner admitted to police that he was “curious” about child ponography and that his interest began when he downloaded peer-to-peer software programs to search for pornography involving a child he knew. He would then download more child pornography, deleting it immediately afterward, according to the police report.

The recent arrest of Carl Lechner  comes on the heels of several high other high-profile criminal charges against adults who coach or volunteer youth athletics teams. A child’s participation in youth sports leagues can be a wonderful experience and serve a positive role in the youth’s development.  Studies show that children who participate in youth athletic league demonstrate improved academic achievement, higher self-esteem, and fewer behavioral problems. It has long been thought that the many facets of playing sports—the discipline of training, learning teamwork, following the leadership of coaches and captains, learning to lose—provide lifelong skills for young athletes.

In youth athletic organizations, adult leaders are expected to work closely with children who they mentor on and off the  athletic field. Unfortunately, this close relationship also provides an atmosphere where child sexual abuse can and does occur with alarming frequency.  In recent years, these incidents of child sexual abuse have been reported across all in countless youth sports, including baseball, softball, tennis, volleyball, swimming, and gymnastics.

All providers of sports programming for youth can play a critical role in developing the the lives of young athletes. With that privilege comes the responsibility of making the safest possible decision to protect the child from harm, inlcuding sexual abuse. All youth sports leagues should have a comprehensive child protection program with training required for coaching staff and volunteers. Before enrolling your child in a youth sports program, do some research into the organization’s child protection program and training for coaches and volunteers.

Among the largest youth sports organizations in the United States are:

YMCA, Little League baseball, Babe Ruth league, American Legion Baseball, Pony Baseball, Triple Crown Sports, Dizzy Dean Baseball, Junior Olympics, National Alliance for Youth Sports, Pop Warner, National Police Athletic league, and AAU.

Children participating in youth sports leagues often devote countless hours to these activities. During practice time, competition, and travel (sometimes on overnight events), the child participants spend considerable time with their coaches. The youth’s parents are often not present and the coaching staff are entrusted to protect the safety of children and are expected to take on the role of the parents in their absence. This results in considerable time in which the coaches have unsupervised access to children. Parents who have children who spend time away from them with coaches should be aware of the possibility of sexual abuse by coaches and aware of “red flags.”  Some examples of red flags include:

* coaches who text and exchange social media messages with children on the team

* coaches who gives gifts to children on the team

* coaches who share a hotel room with children on the team

* coaches who show favoritism or abnormal amounts of attention to particular children on the team

* coaches who offer to privately transport children on the team.

Of course, these are just examples and not every coach who engages in these activities presents a danger to ychildren. Neverthess, these and other “red flags: should never be ignored. Speak with your child about his or her relationship with a coach. Take a more active involvement in your child’s athletic activities and get to know the coach a little better. Of course, you can also perform your own criminal background check on the coach. When red flags are ignored, kids can be sexually abused.

It should also be noted that coaches who sexually abuse children often do not do so quickly. To develop a trusting relationship may take months and even years, through a process known as “grooming”. Coaches often build a special bond with a player, spending inordinate amounts of time coaching them to greatness. They then use this trust to commit horrific sexual crimes—and the children who are victimized are often powerless to stop this abuse.

The attorneys at Farmer Jaffe Weissing handle sexual abuse cases involving youth sports leagues throughout the country.  If you or someone you know has been sexually abused by an adult affiliated with a youth athletics program, please contact Farmer Jaffe Weissing attorney Adam Horowitz via email at [email protected] or by calling (954) 524-2820.

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