Ex-Blue Ridge coach sentenced

A former Blue Ridge High School girls’ soccer coach will spend the next 10 years behind bars for having a sexual relationship with one of his teenage players.

Gerald Koch, 50, formerly of Brackney, entered a guilty plea in April to a count of persuading, inducing and enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity in a case involving a 16-year-old girl.
He was sentenced to serve the minimum sentence of 120 months on Wednesday, Aug. 18, by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas McAvoy.
Prior to his sentencing, Koch addressed the court and apologized for the duress his actions caused the victim and her family. He said his past work as a soccer coach was “one of the greatest honors” he had and acknowledged he “violated the sanctity of the position.”
“I’ll regret that forever,” Koch added.
Judge McAvoy told Koch, “It was a serious lapse of judgment on your part.”
Thomas Saitta, attorney for Koch, said his client had not been a predator preying on young girls but instead the relationship with the teen was a “situational incident.”
Saitta said, “He lost track of the fact he was the adult.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Miroslav Lovric said that as a coach, Koch held an elevated position in the community. He said, “In that position, a great deal of trust and responsibility was given to him.”
The prosecutor differentiated Koch’s position as a coach from that of a “regular Joe.”
“He was given a great deal of trust by the parents, community and school to be the first line of defense (for the students),” Lovric said.
“When he broke that trust – it is more serious. He is part of the fabric of the community meant to stop it,” he added.
Lovric said that when teachers, coaches and law enforcement officials commit these types of crimes, it is something that should be looked upon more seriously.
“Once they are the ones who do this to a minor, we are in a poor situation of keeping minors safe,” the prosecutor said. “We cannot tolerate this as a society.”
The judge dismissed three charges that had been entered against Koch originally for transporting a minor in interstate commerce to engage in sexual activity; travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor; and tampering with a witness/victim.
Court documents indicated that between September 2008 and June 2009, Koch traveled between New York, where he worked for Electro Form Corp. in Binghamton, and Pennsylvania to have sex with the 16-year-old girl, who at the time was a student at Blue Ridge.
According to the indictment, Koch and the girl exchanged explicit text messages detailing the sexual nature of their relationship.
Although he was the girls’ soccer coach, Koch never had a teaching assignment in the Blue Ridge school district.
The girl was not identified in court papers.