Crime

Former Hancock coach convicted of having sex with a student gets decision on her appeal

The former Hancock High School basketball coach convicted of having sex with a student appealed her 30-year sentence.

Leslie Danielle DeWitt lost her appeal, the court announced Tuesday.

"No facts were presented in this case to persuade this Court that the trial court erred," the court said in its decision.

DeWitt's attorney argued a new trial was needed because one of the jurors wasn't qualified — they were not a registered voter in the county and had only lived there for two months before the trial.

Circuit Judge Larry Bourgeois had in 2016 sentenced DeWitt to 15 years in prison for each count of touching a child for lustful purposes, to be served consecutively. It is the maximum sentence allowed by law.

DeWitt is not eligible for early release or parole and must serve every day of the sentence. Upon release, she will be required to register as a sex offender, as detailed in previous Sun Herald reports. DeWitt was acquitted on two counts of sexual battery.

“The most precious asset that our community has is their children,” Bourgeois told DeWitt at sentencing. “The most precious asset was entrusted to you — you manipulated that child and took advantage of the trust given to you. You’ve shown no remorse whatsoever."

DeWitt was accused of having a sexual relationship with a then-16-year-old student between Dec. 1, 2009 and July 30, 2010. According to previous Sun Herald reports, the athlete reported the crime three years later when she was in college. The investigation was then initiated by the Hancock County Sheriff's Office in January 2013.

During testimony, one of the student's friends said DeWitt displayed "obsessive behavior" toward her.

Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel said Dewitt initially disclosed her feelings for the student when she was in eighth grade and "after years of grooming, the defendant committed various sexual acts of sexual molestation on her over a period of approximately eight months.”

He added: "She was obsessed, just like other witnesses told you — obsessed with this student."

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2326, @patrickochs
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