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Former basketball coach Joseph Kikuchi is convicted of sexual abuse of teenage player

Joseph Kikuchi, a former high school basketball coach in Alhambra, was convicted Wednesday of sexually abusing a female player.

Kikuchi, 57, pleaded no contest to 23 counts of sexual abuse of a minor. He did not reach a settlement agreement with prosecutors, but the open plea means he won’t go through the trial process.

Kikuchi will be required to register as a sex offender and will be sentenced next month. He faces a maximum of 19 years and four months in prison.

In a no-contest plea, a defendant neither admits nor denies a charge, but the court treats those who plead no contest as guilty.

Kikuchi was arrested in September 2015 and was accused of having unlawful sexual contact with a student on his basketball team multiple times during 2015, when she was 15 and 16 years old.

After hearing a rumor about the girl and the coach, a school administrator notified police.

Before his bail review hearing in October 2015, 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. 

At that bail hearing, prosecutor Rena Durrant introduced text messages retrieved from the victim’s cellphone after she deleted them. During the hearing, Durrant read aloud threatening texts that she said Kikuchi sent to the girl after she tried to break off the relationship multiple times.

One message, which referred to other players on the team, read, “Don’t piss me off. If you do this, I will move up other girls," according to Durrant. The prosecutor said Kikuchi threatened to take some of the victim’s clothes and demanded that she give a pair of shoes back to him. “I’ll make sure we are enemies,” one text read. “Don’t push me, cuz I’ll get ugly as ..., ok? Don’t push me!!”

At Kikuchi’s preliminary hearing in November 2016, Durrant introduced more of the 52,000 text messages that she said Kikuchi had exchanged with the victim over the course of seven months. 

In those texts, the girl told Kikuchi that he was hurting her physically. Multiple times via text, she asked him to stop — 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 said. According to the documents, he replied, “ok, but don’t say stop because I won’t all the time.” 

Kikuchi’s 23 counts included 12 felony counts of sexual penetration by foreign object, five felony counts of committing a lewd act upon a child, one felony count of oral copulation of a person under 16 and five misdemeanor counts of child molesting.

He is due to be sentenced Feb. 9 at the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Alhambra Courthouse.

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

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