Wednesday, June 23, 2010
A former Wichita tennis coach is headed to prison after a Sedgwick Co. judge declined to follow a plea agreement that recommended only probation.
Barry Fields, 44, was sentenced to five years behind bars on Wednesday.
Fields previously pleaded "no contest" to three counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The charges stem from a series of incidents in 2008 involving a 15-year-old tennis student.
Fields was part of his family's BK Tennis Academy, and was a popular coach among many students. Fields' defense attorney noted the academy closed amidst the scandal.
Judge Joseph Bribiesca listened to statements from Fields' attorney, as well as the victim and her family before deciding probation was not an appropriate punishment.
"The court has a duty to consider the plea agreement, and it has a duty to consider everything [else]," Judge Bribiesca said.
Bribiesca said Fields was held in a "high degree of trust" as a coach, not only teaching tennis but also life lessons to his students.
"Mr. Fields breached that trust for his own sexual gratification," Bribiesca said in court.
Before the sentence was handed down, Fields apologized for his actions. It was his only statement in court.
"I would just like to say I'm sorry for everything, and it will never happen again," Fields told the judge.
Members and friends of Field's family filled half of the courtroom. Quiet sobs could be heard as the judge imposed the prison sentence.
Under Kansas law, district judges are not bound to follow plea agreements, which often offer defendants lesser charges or reduced sentences in exchange for "guilty" or "no contest" pleas.
Prosecutors and Fields' defense attorney said the agreement was reached after lengthy negotiations and amid efforts to keep the victim from having to testify publicly.
The victim's parents addressed the judge in open court, while their daughter submitted a letter which was read aloud by prosecutors.
KAKE News does not identify victims of sexual abuse, a policy shared by many media organizations.
"It has been a very traumatic experience for my family," the victim's father said. "This man took her freedom, took everything from her."
"Bottom line is, I wish this had never happened, for both families," he said.
The girl's mother described a breach of trust, and the guilt a parent feels in such a situation.
"My heart is broken in so many ways," she told the judge. "We put our trust in Mr. Fields."
"I feel Mr. Fields took an innocence from my daughter's life that can never be repaid," she said.
In her letter to the judge, the victim said the abuse and the resulting case led her to cutting herself and, on one occasion, attempting suicide by overdose.
"Words can't describe the feelings I have endured over the last few years," the girl wrote in the letter read aloud by prosecutors.
She went on to write: "I feel Barry needs to think about his actions... Barry morphed me into somebody I never wanted to be."
The letter ended with the girl saying despite everything, she believes she is stronger because of the experience.
"This experience has made me view the world differently," she wrote. "I know how to protect myself now. Through it all, my relationship with my family and God has grown tremendously."
As part of his sentence, Fields must also register as a sex offender. He will be on a lifetime of post-release supervision.