Ceres swim coach ac­cused of mis­con­duct has pleaded guilty

The Modesto Bee - - Local - BY ROSALIO AHUMADA rahu­mada@mod­bee.com

A long­time Ceres swim coach ac­cused of send­ing sug­ges­tive mes­sages to two teenage girls on his team pleaded guilty Tues­day, a few days after his trial started in Stanis­laus Su­pe­rior Court.

Tracy Bull pleaded guilty to an­noy­ing and mo­lest­ing a child, a mis­de­meanor charge stem­ming from al­le­ga­tions from a 14-year-old girl iden­ti­fied in court as “Jane Doe 1,” the Stanis­laus County District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice an­nounced on its Face­book page Tues­day af­ter­noon.

Bull pleaded no con­test to an­noy­ing and mo­lest­ing a child, also a mis­de­meanor charge stem­ming from al­le­ga­tions from a 17-yearold girl iden­ti­fied as “Jane Doe 2,” ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors.

The de­fen­dant was fac­ing those two mis­de­meanor charges when his trial be­gan Thurs­day morn­ing. Pros­e­cu­tors did not drop any charges in ex­change for his pleas.

Bull is sched­uled to re­turn to court Jan. 14 for his sen­tenc­ing hear­ing. Pros­e­cu­tors said Bull faces a max­i­mum sen­tence of two years in county jail and will have to reg­is­ter as a sex of­fender.

At the time of his June 15, 2016 ar­rest, Bull had been coach of the Ceres Dol­phins Swim Team for about 12 years, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties. The recre­ational team, which used the Ceres High pool, in­cluded swim­mers from Ceres, Modesto, Tur­lock and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

Sev­eral hours after the coach’s ar­rest, the Ceres Dol­phins board an­nounced it had sus­pended Bull pend­ing the out­come of the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The team — in ex­is­tence for sev­eral decades — in­cluded about 170 boys and girls from 5 to 18 years old.

Bull also had coached boys bas­ket­ball and wa­ter polo at Ceres High School dur­ing the school year be­fore his ar­rest. A Ceres Uni­fied School District as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent said at that time that Bull would no longer coach for the district.

Deputy District At­tor­ney Ahnna Re­icks pros­e­cuted the case. In her open­ing state­ment, she told the ju­rors Bull crossed boundaries and be­trayed the girls’ trust when he sent them sug­ges­tive mes­sages.

The pros­e­cu­tor said in court that “Jane Doe 1” was hor­ri­fied and burst into tears when Bull sent her a Face­book mes­sage de­scrib­ing a dream he had about her. Re­icks said Bull told the girl he was lay­ing down after a swim meet with his hand on her hip, and she pushed up her hip.

“She knew right then and there that the con­ver­sa­tion had turned sex­ual,” Re­icks said about the girl.

Kirk McAl­lis­ter, Bull’s at­tor­ney, told the jury that in the Face­book mes­sages Bull had ex­plained to the girl that he had this dream after fall­ing asleep while hav­ing his hand on his wife’s hip; and in his dream he saw the girl.

The de­fense at­tor­ney also told ju­rors that the de­fense would present wit­nesses associated with the swim team who “were not cherry-picked” by the pros­e­cu­tion.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors con­ducted a foren­sics test on Bull’s cell phone. They found a string of sus­pi­cious dig­i­tal mes­sages to “Jane Doe 2,” the older girl on the swim team.

The pros­e­cu­tors told the jury that in a se­ries of mes­sages Bull told “Jane Doe 2” that he was jeal­ous of a boy who liked her, and that he was born 30 years too soon.

McAl­lis­ter told the ju­rors that the coach was en­cour­ag­ing “Jane Doe 2” to date the boy who liked her, be­cause the boy was col­lege-bound and driven. He also said in court that “Jane Doe 2” told po­lice that Bull was al­ways jok­ing around, and that the de­fen­dant never said any­thing in­ap­pro­pri­ate to her.

The pros­e­cu­tor said in­ves­ti­ga­tors ques­tioned three other swim­mers who were on the team dur­ing Bull’s time as coach. Re­icks said those team mem­bers told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that Bull made sim­i­lar sug­ges­tive com­ments, and all three of them quit the team.

Tes­ti­mony in the trial was ex­pected to con­tinue through the end of this week. Re­icks was pre­pared to call six ad­di­tional wit­nesses to tes­tify, when the de­fen­dant de­cided to plead to the charges, ac­cord­ing to the District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice.

Tracy Bull

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