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Coach Pleads Guilty in Molesting of Girls

Times Staff Writer

The former varsity basketball coach at Esperanza High School in Anaheim has pleaded guilty to charges of molesting two 16-year-old students over a period of several months last year.

Christopher M. Lee, 41, of Newport Beach was arrested in January after two female Esperanza students told a school counselor that Lee made sexual advances toward them while they were members of his English class. The sexual molestations occurred between March and October of 1987 at several locations, including a classroom at the high school and Lee’s Balboa Island home, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kathleen Kendle said Friday.

Lee pleaded guilty Thursday to five felony counts of oral copulation and vaginal penetration with a minor and one misdemeanor count of molesting a child, according to Kendle. Three other misdemeanor counts were dropped.

Sentencing for Lee, who is married, was scheduled for Nov. 1 before Orange County Superior Court Judge Myron S. Brown. Kendle said she will recommend that Lee serve one year in County Jail.

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After his arrest, Lee was suspended without pay by the Placentia Unified School District pending the case’s outcome, according to Tim Van Eck, assistant superintendent of personnel. Lee, who taught English and coached at Esperanza for three years, now faces possible automatic dismissal, Van Eck said.

As of Friday, the district had not been formally notified of Lee’s guilty plea. Until such notification, no decision will be made on Lee’s status as a district employee, Van Eck said.

Both victims testified during Lee’s preliminary hearing earlier this year. The teen-agers, who were sophomores at the time of the molestation, have been “significantly traumatized” by the experience, Kendle said. She said the victims, both from Yorba Linda, “cared very much” for Lee and trusted him a “great deal.”

“The victims had a close relationship with (Lee) that developed into a sexual relationship,” said Kendle, adding that neither was forced by Lee to have sex.

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At the time of his arrest, Lee was in the middle of his first season as varsity basketball coach at Esperanza. He had been the school’s freshman and sophomore basketball coach before taking over the top boy’s coaching slot. The sex charges and his removal as coach shocked many of the varsity team members and their parents, who at the time described Lee as intelligent and well-respected.


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