A South Bay high school's former head wrestling coach was found guilty Thursday of molesting 25 students — a conviction that could put him in state prison for life.
The conviction of Thomas Joseph Snider, 48, came after a dramatic trial in Torrance's courthouse, where victims testified that the longtime educator touched their genitals under the pretense of nude "skin inspections," according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Snider, who taught at Torrance High School and worked as the wrestling coach in 1995, 1996 and from 2013 to 2015, was convicted of 29 counts of lewd acts with children and eight misdemeanor counts of molestation.
He faces more than 73 years to life in state prison when he is sentenced Oct. 28.
Prosecutors said Snider would force victims to remove their clothing and watched students in the shower. He also massaged several students, according to court testimony.
More than two dozen boys testified during the trial and told jurors that they complied with their coach's requests — to stand naked as he surveyed and touched their genitalia — even though the touching made them uncomfortable, the Daily Breeze reported.
On the witness stand, Snider said the inspections were meant to maintain sound hygiene and reduce skin infections that can occur among wrestlers, the newspaper reported. He said the checks were not sexual in nature.
"Hindsight is 20/20," he said, in testimony documented by the newspaper. "It was a poor choice. I really, truly didn't think I was doing anything wrong."
Prosecutors said that school officials learned of the abuse after students told members of a rival team about Snider's nude skin checks.
Snider began working for the school district in 1990 as a career technical education teacher, the district said.
The school district placed him on administrative leave in January 2015 after students came forward with allegations of sexual abuse, police said. After his arrest on suspicion of child molestation in April 2015, he was placed on unpaid leave, according to a school district statement.
His employment status with Torrance Unified School District was not clear late Thursday.