Judge for 2nd time refuses plea of ex-Dover HS basketball coach in sex case
A York County judge has refused for a second time to accept a proposed plea agreement that would allow a former Dover Area High School girls' basketball coach to avoid prison for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a player.
Aignee Nicole Freeland was in York County Court on Tuesday, Oct. 30, ready to plead guilty to a third-degree felony charge of corruption of a minor, deputy prosecutor Taylor Katherman told presiding Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder.
In exchange for her plea, she would be sentenced to seven years' probation, with the first three months on house arrest.
The agreement also required her to be on the Megan's Law sex-offender list for 15 years, abide by the county's sexual-offender probation conditions, have no contact with the victim and pay court costs, Katherman said in court.
It's essentially the same plea agreement that Snyder refused to accept on Aug. 9, except this time the prosecution tacked on the three months of house arrest.
Snyder asked for the state sentencing guideline range for the crime; Katherman said the minimum standard-range sentence is between three and 12 months in county prison.
"There are some mitigating factors that the commonwealth took into account," he told the judge and said the victim's family supported the proposed plea agreement.
That's when Snyder ordered Katherman and defense attorney R.J. Fisher to approach for a private conversation at sidebar.
Judge not 'in agreement': After the sidebar conversation ended, Snyder said nothing about either accepting or denying the plea, but the case was tentatively scheduled for trial during the January trial term of York County Court.
Outside the courtroom, Katherman said the judge "wasn't in agreement with the proposal" because, essentially, the punishment was "not within the standard range" of sentencing.
Fisher declined comment.
Katherman said negotiations are ongoing and that there's time to perhaps craft a third plea agreement to submit to the judge. The attorney said he's unsure whether that will happen or whether Freeland will go to trial.
Freeland, 24, of West Maple Street in York City, remains free on bail, charged with institutional sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of a minor.
The background: Northern York County Regional Police said they were notified by Dover Area School District officials on Dec. 20 that they had learned of an alleged inappropriate relationship between Freeland and a basketball player.
Court documents allege Freeland had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl who played on the team.
Police told the girl's mother about the alleged relationship on Dec. 20, after which she gave investigators permission to look at her daughter's phone and a forensic analysis was performed, documents state.
It showed 18 video calls — incoming, outgoing and missed — between Freeland and the girl on Dec. 18 and 19, according to court documents.
The girl was interviewed Jan. 4 and said she and Freeland met on several occasions after basketball practice in Dover borough, Dover Township and Manchester Township, documents state.
They would sit in a vehicle, talk and engage in sexual contact, according to police.
"She said Freeland would touch her 'all over her body,'" documents state, and that the alleged fondling included penetration.
Kept quiet: "Both were aware Freeland could get in trouble if anyone found out about the relationship, so they agreed not to tell anyone," court documents state.
The relationship began Nov. 1, 2017, and continued until Dec. 20, the day police went to the girl's mother, according to police allegations.
Freeland eventually was fired by Dover Area School District and by the York City School District, where she worked as a cafeteria aide at the Edgar Fahs Smith STEAM Academy on Texas Avenue.
A graduate of William Penn Senior High School, Freeland had a standout basketball career at Edinboro University, after which she signed a contract to play professional women's basketball.
Freeland left Edinboro as a three-time All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division selection and was the PSAC West Freshman of the Year.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.