By Kianna Anvari, Anika Khubchandani, Danae Snell
WOODLAND — The jury trial of Yolo youth softball coach “Buck” Maldonado Thomas, which began September 8, resumed here this week, with several teen witnesses recollecting in front of Judge Paul K. Richardson how their professional relationship with their coach turned inappropriate and criminal.
Numerous female witnesses testified as victims of sexual battery by their softball coach in their teenage years—most were minors at the time.
The young women did not know each other and each trained with Thomas at different times. They were talented softball players who desired to play at the college level. The girls knew that Thomas was connected in the baseball community, and he guaranteed each of them an opportunity to play for college scouts and earn scholarships.
The first victim, now 21 years old, told Deputy District Attorney Rachel Raymond that she would drive three hours with her father to train with Thomas at his house in Phoenix, Arizona.
She worked with him once a month over a five-month period in 2017, along with other young athletes training at his home workout facility. She described his personality as extroverted, blunt, and vulgar.
The victim recalled that Thomas asked her if she was a virgin during throwing drills one day, which she did not feel was appropriate for a coach to ask. Another afternoon, Thomas asked her to come inside his house while her father waited outside.
She said the defendant pulled out a piece of paper and said he was checking if she was Division-1 material. He touched her intimately, and for five minutes. She kept asking him what he was writing and he would repeat that it was to see if she was D-1 material.
The second victim, now 22, was 17 when Thomas sexually assaulted her. She explained that she would often stay the night in his stepdaughter’s room instead of driving 45 minutes back to her house in Phoenix. She felt like she was part of their family after getting closer with the defendant’s wife at the time.
The victim said that Thomas would rub her muscles in his garage after a hard workout. She described how he would rub up her legs and touch her, claiming that it would relax her body.
Though she felt uncomfortable, he told her this was normal for a trainer to do and called it a “full body rub.” She thought that someone she considered a father figure would not betray her trust like that.
She also mentioned that Thomas would often kiss her on the neck; before she left for college he left a hickey mark on her neck.
Another victim was introduced to Thomas when she was 16. Thomas was dating the victim’s half-sister at the time, who is 20 years her senior. Thomas would talk about her sister in vulgar terms but the victim felt too uncomfortable to tell her.
The victim described his behavior as a slow progression that began with late-night text messages about sex.
When they were training he would ask her whom she was dating and if she was a virgin. The victim told Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher that Thomas wanted to be friends and know everything about her life. He asked her not to wear tight clothes and would buy her sports bras.
Because of how subtle and cavalier his behavior was, the victim said was confused about his intent. Now, she believes that everything he did was meticulous and intentional.
Thomas violated a parent’s trust when he allegedly sexually assaulted one of his players in their home while he was supposed to be training her for college level softball.
The alleged victim and her father took the stand to explain how the incident unraveled.
On July 30, 2018, the 17-year-old victim’s world changed the moment her coach, Thomas, asked her if she had “ever had sex or experienced an orgasm” after the victim and her mother arrived at the airport to pick him up for a week of training.
At this moment, she realized this week was not going to go as expected. On the other hand, her father was oblivious to all the warning signs.
Prior to Thomas’ visit to West Sacramento, he sent the victim’s father a text saying, “I’m going to spend all night with her, tuck her in, and kiss her goodnight.” The text also stated, “I’m going to kiss her and we are going to high-five, and then I’m going to f- her world up…and climb into her soul and when she comes out she will be a D-1 player.”
Since sports coaches tend to use vulgar language, the victim’s father “thought that this was just his personality” and did not think much of Thomas’ disturbing comments. Considering Thomas is known for his important connections in both Major League Baseball and across west coast Division-1 universities, the victim’s father focused on how Thomas could help his daughter secure an athletic scholarship.
The day Thomas arrived at their home, the family vaguely discussed the workout plan for the week. There were no detailed discussions of what the training would entail, only that “it was going to be intense,” shared the victim’s father.
Instead of talking about the training in depth, “Thomas was very interested in our schedules” and kept asking “when we were getting home,” disclosed the victim’s father.
After consulting with the parents, Thomas and the victim began preparing to begin their first session of training. The alleged victim informed the court that Thomas instructed her “not to wear a bra or underwear” as they walked into a room alone together to stretch.
The victim claimed that in the beginning “everything was normal” and similar to many other pre-training workouts she previously participated in. As the victim began stretching, Thomas allegedly started to rub her thigh and “at that point it started to become inappropriate.”
The victim, who was 15 at the time, knew this was not an accident insofar as “there was no reason anyone’s hand should be there.” The situation escalated when Thomas proceeded to touch her in inappropriate areas.
The victim then claims that she kneed him in the head and made contact in an attempt to stop him, however, he began to hold her down.
The victim’s father recalled that Thomas and his daughter went into a room for about 30 minutes. At the time, her father “did not know that he was going to take her into her room to massage her.” Thomas just told the family that “he was going to warm her up.”
After his daughter left the room and walked outside of the house, her father remembered a distraught look on her face. He shared that his “wife knew something was wrong but she didn’t say.”
Even though the victim did not explicitly tell her parents what occurred in the room, it became apparent that something was wrong.
After the incident in the room, “stretching was always in front of us,” conveyed the father. Both of the victim’s parents also took time off work to supervise the interactions between Thomas and their daughter.
Thomas did not attempt to assault the victim in the next few days; however, she remained uncomfortable in his presence.
On September 30, 2018, the victim’s father confronted Thomas through a text message about the inappropriate touching of his daughter. He said that “we as a family cannot get over what you did” to his daughter and asked for his money back.
Thomas is charged with a lewd act on a child, forcible sexual penetration on a minor, forcible oral copulation, sexual battery, and burglary. His trial will resume on September 21 and his bail is set at $1 million.
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