A former Waynesville High School Homecoming King was sentenced on Thursday to five years probation, fined $2,500 and classified as a sex offender for fondling four boys in 2016.
Judge Timothy Tepe sentenced Cole A. Phillips, now 20, after hearing pleas for leniency and statements on behalf of the victims.
“Mr. Phillips pursued my son like a hunter,” one father said in court Thursday after commending his son for reporting the incident to police.
Phillips, identified as a starting lineman on the Waynesville Spartans football team by a victim’s family, had an extensive support network and was working as a custodian in Springboro schools and at a restaurant in Waynesville, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by his lawyer, Charles M. Rittgers.
Phillips was the high school homecoming king in 2015.
The cases came to light last year after another case surfaced involving a Waynesville football player, according to one victim’s family’s statement read during the hearing in Warren County Common Pleas Court in Lebanon.
During a hearing in November, Tepe sentenced Hunter Brown, 19, to 30 days in jail and 100 hours of community service for retaliation and ordered him to write letters of apology to the team and a younger player he was accused of victimizing in 2016. Brown pleaded guilty in October.
Phillips was indicted in September on seven counts of gross sexual imposition.
In November, Phillips pleaded guilty to four counts of gross sexual imposition.
He faced up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine on each count, but no mandatory sentence was required, according to a change-of-plea entry.
Between March 2016 and December 2016, Phillips, a Waynesville High graduate, is accused of fondling four sleeping male students from the Waynesville school district after giving them alcohol at his home.
The boys, 14 to 16 years old would stay overnight at Phillips house in Wayne Twp., according to Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell.
“The victims would awake to the defendant fondling them,” Fornshell said after the indictment was issued.
The boys went to police after one of them learned others alleged similar acts by Phillips, Fornshell said in September.
One father said in court Thursday that Phillips spread false information about the victims.
In a statement read in court, another family said: “Cole Phillips has hurt so many people.”
Assistant County Prosecutor Travis Vieux urged Tepe to sentence Phillips, who has already served three days in jail, to 180 days in jail and suspend a four-year prison sentence.
Tepe ordered the suggested suspended sentence, but no additional jail time for Phillips, provided he stay away from the victims, school grounds and events and anywhere, except the restaurant where he worked, the victims and their families might go.
“It is a small town,” Tepe said, expressing concern Phillips had not fully acknowledged his crimes to family and friends. “It’s your fault.”
Phillips, who was already in counseling, apologized in court Thursday to each victim and the Waynesville community and described his actions as “immoral” and “indecent”.
“I know I’ve hurt many people because of what I did,” he said.
Rittgers said Phillips entered a guilty plea, rather than take the case to trial, in part to spare the victims from having to appear in court.
As a Tier 1 sex offender, Phillips, a student at Sinclair Community College, according to his sentencing memorandum, will be required to register wherever he lives or works or goes for education for the next 15 years. On Friday, Sinclair indicated Phillips has attended classes there, but is not currently enrolled.
“He will live for the rest of his life with this black mark,” Rittgers said.