Former Hacienda Heights basketball coach pleads not guilty to sexually abusing a 14-year-old student

A former middle school basketball coach in Hacienda Heights pleaded not guilty Friday to two felony counts of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl.

Terrence Lee, 29, is charged with lewd acts upon a child and oral copulation of a person under 16. Lee, a La Habra Heights resident, was a basketball coach at Cedarlane Academy, according to a news release from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Prosecutors accuse Lee of starting a sexual relationship with an eighth-grader at Cederlane between April 1 and May 16 of this year, according to the felony complaint. He was arrested June 10 after “the girl’s family member reportedly discovered sexually explicit messages between Lee and the girl,” according to the news release.

Jane Reilley, a lawyer representing the student, said the girl’s mother believes that Lee gave her daughter a cellphone so that he could contact her outside of school.

Lee worked for the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District for about four months as a walk-on coach, said Jill Rojas, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources. He left the district at the beginning of March, she said — before prosecutors allege the abuse happened.

“The L.A. County Sheriff's Department is handling the investigation,” Rojas said. “We are cooperating fully with them.”

Regardless of the outcome of the case, the district will not hire Lee again, Rojas said.

Sheriff’s officials declined to release a booking photo of Lee on Friday. Sgt. Richard Martinez of the Special Victims Unit declined to give a reason not to release a photo or say whether detectives are looking for more victims. The department’s protocol is not to release booking photos in active investigations unless detectives are seeking the public’s help on a case, said Deputy Grace Medrano, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.

Authorities should have informed the public as soon as the allegations surfaced in case there are other victims, Reilley said.

“It’s the type of crime that thrives in secrecy,” Reilley said. “A lot of times there may be more than one victim that may be afraid to come forward.”

If convicted, Lee faces up to three years and eight months in state prison and a lifetime sex offender registration. He was initially released on $1-million bail — that was reduced to $95,000 at Friday’s arraignment, Reilley said.

Reach Sonali Kohli at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.

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