Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Coach pleads guilty to lewd conduct with minor

Plea agreement reached just prior to start of jury trial


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Former youth lacrosse coach Douglas Drury Cooper pleaded guilty Monday in Blaine County 5th District Court to a single count of lewd conduct with a minor child under16.

In exchange for his guilty plea, three other felony charges were dismissed against Cooper by the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which reached a plea agreement with the defendant on Sunday following a weekend of negotiations.

Jury trial for Cooper, 43, of Hailey, was scheduled to start Tuesday.

As part of the agreement, the prosecuting attorney's office will recommend that Cooper be sentenced to 15 years in prison, five of them to be served before he is eligible for parole.

The case against Cooper started last summer when allegations surfaced that he was sexually involved with a 14-year-old Hailey girl.

In August 2006, a Blaine County grand jury indicted the former youth lacrosse coach on felony charges of rape, lewd conduct with a minor child under 16, sexual abuse of a child under 16 and enticing a minor over the Internet.

District Court Judge John K. Butler informed Cooper in court late Monday afternoon that he is not bound by the recommendation of the prosecutor and could sentence the defendant to the maximum term of life in prison. Butler, who normally presides in Jerome County, was assigned the case after Blaine County District Court Judge Robert J. Elgee removed himself because he has a child that was previously coached by the defendant.

"Guilty, your honor—I committed a lewd act on a minor," Cooper acknowledged to Butler during Monday's court hearing.

As part of the plea agreement, Cooper agreed to pay an unspecified amount in restitution to the victim and a $5,000 fine. Furthermore, he waived his Fifth Amendment rights and will cooperate fully in a pre-sentence investigation report, a psychosexual evaluation and polygraphs.

Butler said that the sentence he imposes will likely rely heavily on the outcome of the evaluations. Sentencing was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 26.

Cooper is currently free on $30,000 bond but is required to keep the court informed of his whereabouts.




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