Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Charges against Cambridge coach dropped - WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL

GEORGE HESSELBERG ghesselberg@madison.com
July 11, 2006

Though charges of sexually assaulting a student were dropped Monday, popular teacher and coach Joseph Parish said he will resign his positions at Cambridge High School and "rethink my career path."

The community was rocked last April when charges were filed against Parish, 37, who had been varsity football coach for four years and had also coached boys' varsity basketball and baseball teams.

Monday, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge John Ullsvik dismissed all of the charges. The trial was to begin today. The district attorney did not say why a dismissal was requested, but Parish's lawyers had filed papers earlier indicating he was demonstrably out of town when the assault was said to have occurred.

Parish was charged in Jefferson County Court with second degree sexual assault, false imprisonment and intimidating a victim. An 18-year-old female student contacted authorities in March and accused Parish of attacking her last September after school hours in a deserted high school locker room.

In an additional memo to the court seeking the 18-year-old woman's mental health records, Parish's lawyers included the accuser's cell phone records, which show her phone was in use when she said it was lost, and during the time period the assault was to have taken place. In statements to investigating officers from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, the accuser said she had returned to the high school after hours because she had forgotten her cell phone in her locker.

After 6:20 p.m. Sept. 14, after football practice, Parish was 40 miles away, in Watertown, getting a haircut himself and then for his children. He then joined his parents for dinner, according to a notice of alibi filed last month by his lawyers, Stephen P. Hurley and Eric Guenther.

The accuser had been specific about when - between 8 and 9 p.m. - and where the assault happened, in the girls' locker room. The complaint alleged that Parish had pulled down her pants, groped her and then threatened to "do it again, only worse." The complaint also said he threatened her months later in a grocery store.

The student made the allegation against Parish to police on March 2. Parish was charged in late April, and had been placed on paid leave in March. His lawyers said that though he was aware of the investigation and had offered to meet with investigators whenever they wanted, Parish was not interviewed before he was arrested on an April Friday, then kept in the county jail over the weekend.

In a statement issued through Hurley's office, Parish said the "hardship of the allegations that I have faced has caused me to rethink my career path. After consulting with my family and giving this matter much thought, I have chosen to resign from my position at Cambridge High School."
He said he hoped to pursue a coaching education and to become an educator on the college level, according to the statement.

Parish had been employed at the Cambridge School District since 1994, after he graduated from UW-Whitewater, where he played football. He had been the head football coach at 339-student Cambridge High School for the past four years. Before that, he was the varsity boys basketball and baseball coach for several years.

Neither Cambridge Superintendent Ron Dayton, whose son played football for Parish, nor
Assistant District Attorney Tris Baker, would comment on the dismissal of charges Monday.
In his statement, Parish said "I am thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of the Cambridge High School community as an educator and coach. The past twelve years have included many proud events."

He said he would "greatly miss being a teacher and coach here in Cambridge."



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