Donte Murphy, a former Dayton Public Schools classroom aide and coach, twice had sexual intercourse with a high school student-athlete last year, but there are questions about his role with the schools when it happened.
Murphy, who was head boys track coach at Ponitz Career Technology Center for four years, went on trial Tuesday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court on five felony counts.
The 28-year-old faces three counts of sexual battery against a female student-athlete who had already turned 18. Prosecutors and the defense filed a stipulation to certain facts Tuesday, including that Murphy had sexual intercourse with the Ponitz student twice last spring, on March 22 and April 14.
Most of Tuesday’s testimony was not about the sex, but whether Murphy was actually a school employee at the time. The sexual battery charge against Murphy cites a specific passage of Ohio law applying to a teacher, coach or other school employee of authority, having sex with a person who attends the school.
Murphy’s attorney, Anthony Cicero, asked one witness who had worked as a student manager for Ponitz’s track team whether she knew that Murphy was actually fired by DPS in mid-March 2016, before the sexual intercourse took place. The witness said she knew Murphy had stopped coming to school in his classroom aide role, but that he had continued to coach.
That witness and another who ran track for Ponitz last spring testified that Murphy continued to coach Ponitz’s track team until May 4 when DPS officials trespassed him from school property.
The question of whether Murphy was acting as a school employee at the time of the sexual conduct could affect the outcome of the case.
Prosecutors Ward Barrentine and Kimberly Melnick called the only three witnesses – the two girls from Ponitz, plus Jamie Bullens, Dayton Public Schools Director of Safety and Security. Bullens testified that Murphy first denied, then admitted on May 4 to having sex with the student-athlete. Bullens confirmed that Murphy said he thought there was nothing wrong because the student-athlete was over the age of 18.
After testimony was over, Judge Steven Dankof said, “There’s probably not a lot under current Ohio law that sheds any light on the issues that the court is now confronting.”
He gave the attorneys on both sides four weeks to file legal briefs making their cases.
Those briefs will also address the other two felony charges — Murphy faces single counts of forgery and tampering with government records, related to the alleged doctoring of his state license to serve as a coach, an issue uncovered by a Dayton Daily News investigation.
DPS officials believed Murphy’s pupil activity permit to coach was legitimate, sending a copy to the Dayton Daily News as proof of his credentials. But they did not notice the date on the license and the signature of the state superintendent did not match.
Murphy’s applications for new state permits — to coach and serve as a classroom aide — were not approved by the state, in part because of his 2014 arrest for soliciting a prostitute. Despite that, he continued to work in those roles for DPS until spring 2016.
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