More than 52,000 text messages exchanged between a former Alhambra high school basketball coach and a female student on his team detail eight months of alleged sexual abuse, police and district attorney’s investigators testified during a preliminary hearing Tuesday.
Joseph Alan Kikuchi, 57, was a basketball coach at Mark Keppel High School when he allegedly began sexually abusing a teenager on his team in February 2015, prosecutors said. The girl was 15 and 16 years old during that time.
Deputy district attorney Rena Durrant called witnesses from the Alhambra Police Department and the district attorney’s office who provided often harrowing details of some of the thousands of text messages exchanged from about February to September 2015.
Alhambra police retrieved between 52,000 and 53,000 text messages from the girl’s cell phone after she had deleted them, Alhambra police Lt. James Hammond testified during the hearing.
Durrant used those text messages, along with district attorney investigator Karen Matsumoto-Heslin’s testimony about her interviews with the girl, to provide context about the abuse and convince a judge that the case should move forward.
Kikuchi is charged with 18 felony counts and 5 misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse. He faces up to 14 years in state prison and five years in jail if found guilty.
Superior Court Judge Michael Villalobos denied a motion to dismiss the charges.
Matsumoto-Heslin testified that the girl’s father told her during interviews that Kikuchi would sometimes text him offering to take his daughter to and from practice at school.
The girl, Matsumoto-Heslin testified, said that Kikuchi would take her to an underground parking lot or to a secluded intersection after practice and touch her sexually.
Durrant read some of the text messages to the judge: He was hurting her physically, the girl told Kikuchi in the texts. She asked him to stop multiple times by text, but he didn’t and wrote back that he loved her, Durrant said.
On May 5, the girl texted Kikuchi that she knew his actions were out of love, but “if I say stop please stop, ok. I know it’s love but still,” Durrant quoted one of the messages, during the hearing. He replied, “ok, but don’t say stop because I won’t all the time,” and told her he loved her.
On May 23, the girl texted, “if I don’t want to pls stop trying to. I said it today and you got mad.”
On June 1, Kikuchi texted her: “babe can you please not seem like you’re mad at me after all the time please.”
She responded, “CUZ I tell you to stop and you don’t!” and later in the conversation, wrote, “I mean like when UR touching.”
Kikuchi’s attorney, Mia Yamamoto, asked few questions as Kikuchi sat next to her in a grey suit, mostly looking down at his hands or the table.
During one exchange, Yamamoto asked Matsumoto-Heslin if at some point the girl told investigators that Kikuchi never touched under her clothes. Matsumoto-Heslin said that was correct. Once the girl saw the text messages police had retrieved, though, she said that he had repeatedly digitally penetrated and orally copulated her under her clothes, Matsumoto-Heslin said.
Alhambra police began investigating Kikuchi in September 2015 after a school staff member reported rumors of an "alleged inappropriate relationship." He was arrested Sept. 24.
During a bail review in October, prosecutors read threatening text messages they said Kikuchi had sent to the girl when she tried to break off the relationship.
One message read, “Don’t piss me off. If you do this, I will move up other girls," according to Durrant. It was an apparent reference to promoting other girls on the basketball team, she said. He allegedly threatened to take a number of clothing items from the girl and demanded that she give a pair of shoes back to him.
“I’ll make sure we are enemies,” Durrant said the texts from Kikuchi read. “Don’t push me, cuz I’ll get ugly as ..., ok? Don’t push me!!”
Neither Kikuchi or Yamamoto would comment after the hearing concluded Tuesday.
Before the October hearing, the court received dozens of letters of support for Kikuchi, who was a well-known and respected coach in the close-knit Asian American basketball community. A number of community members attended his arraignment and bail review in October to support him.
At the preliminary hearing Tuesday, the courtroom was nearly empty. Kikuchi’s next court date is Nov. 1.