Jerry Jeff Pedersen, 29, a former volunteer assistant coach with the Sequim High School girls varsity basketball team, pled guilty Thursday, Aug. 21, to five felony counts of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
The plea comes after Pedersen pled not guilty in Clallam County Superior Court on May 2 for exchanging explicit texts and pictures with a then-15-year-old girl on the team.
A Sequim Police investigation stated that Pedersen, a volunteer coach since November 2012, was in a relationship with the girl for more than five months.
The five felony counts come from police obtained text messages shared March 1-23. Each felony charge could lead up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine for each charge, but because Pedersen does not have a previous criminal record, he may face one to three months in jail, 12 months of community custody and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
His attorney John Black has recommended 60 days of home monitoring for Pedersen’s sentencing, set for 9 a.m. Oct. 7, in Clallam County Superior Court. Pedersen must register as a sex offender and not have contact with the victim and any female minors under age 18.
Court documents state the relationship was first reported to authorities on March 23. A student spoke to police and school officials the following day about it, court documents state.
Sequim School District Superintendent Kelly Shea said high school staff learned of the relationship from the student and police.
Court documents state the 15-year-old voluntarily went to police on March 24 and said she became close with Pedersen during a basketball camp from July 21-26, 2013.
She told police she and Pedersen would text several times a day from waking up to going to bed at first about life and school before turning into flirting, court documents state.
Shea said the district removed Pedersen from his position once the allegations came out.
Like other volunteer coaches in the school district, Pedersen was fingerprinted and given a volunteer checklist that includes information on student/coach interaction.
“As a result of this, we’ll make sure all of our coaches, paid and volunteer, continue to complete the training we provide them,” Shea said. “We’ll emphasize the coach/player relationship and reexamine our practices of social media. Other than that, we’re reenforcing what we already have in place.”
Dave Ditlefsen, Sequim High School’s athletic director, said Pedersen’s was an isolated incident within the district and that they won’t be making any other changes or adding new protocol.
“He had gone through the background and was trained according the district policy,” he said. “We have no plans to take any further steps to check other coaches’ backgrounds. Paid girls basketball coaches (Evan Still, varsity, and Justine Wagner, junior varsity) will remain the same.”
Court documents state the then-15-year-old girl said Still saw a text message between her and Pedersen on Pedersen’s phone leading Still to fire Pedersen.
She said that she and Pedersen talked and decided that what they were doing was a bad idea so they stopped texting, court documents state, and after a week Pedersen contacted her and they started texting again.
Pedersen graduated from Sequim High School in 2004.