By Linhchi Nguyen
WOODLAND – Softball coach Jack “Buck” Thomas testified in his trial Friday in Yolo County Superior Court, defending himself from allegations of sexually assaulting two underage girls, ages 15 and 16.
During his direct examination with Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher, Thomas established his reputation to the jury as a successful softball coach, known for his rough language and “unconventional” method of coaching.
He independently started his softball coaching company with his wife in 2018, calling it “The Hitting Guy.” Along with his training, he ran a college placement program, where he helped his high school clients get in contact with colleges for athletic scholarships.
Thomas stated that it is common for him to train his clients either in their own houses or at his house. He also admitted that he had an “unorthodox” style of training.
“We’re very hands-on,” Thomas explained. “We found a way to have each player that we had understand what we do…There’s a lot of change involved from maybe what they’ve done before. But I believe that’s why we’re very successful. We’re very different.”
One client reached out to Thomas to train his 15-year-old daughter. Before Thomas started his training, he reached out to her on Instagram through the direct messaging function. Along with sending her videos of hitting drills, he also called her “baby girl” and complimented her on one of her photos, saying, “Will you introduce me to this girl when I’m there?”
Thomas explained that his messages were for the purpose of building rapport. “She was going to go through a lot, and she was going to have to change a little bit of what she’s been taught…So, it’s important for me to not be a surprise to her.”
The evidence showed that he further messaged her, “P.S. no boyfriend for the week. Buck’s in town. He’s gone, I’m boyfriend for the week. You cool with that?”
Thomas went on to explain that her father specifically asked him to help redirect her attention away from her boyfriend. “He asked me to stay on (her) about her focus and work ethic on softball. And also ask me if I could possibly work on her boyfriend, trying to get that piece out of the way…[He’s trying to see] if I could try to get her really locked into softball and not so much locked in the boyfriend.”
His message was also meant to indicate that she was going to have to spend time for training with Thomas for the week.
Indeed, Thomas testified to spending a lot of time with her. Not only did he coach her, he also took her out to the mall, to dinner, to the bars, and a baseball game.
One day during a training session at her house, he asked her to go stretch in her bedroom. According to Thomas, her bedroom door was partly open such that her parents could have seen inside all the way from the living room.
Once they entered her room, Thomas began assisting her with her stretching. He laid her on her stomach and “immediately noticed there was a twitch” on her back, according to Thomas. He then went to the kitchen to inform the parents that something was wrong with their daughter.
At one point, Thomas walked out to the front yard to make a phone call. The father then went outside to tell Thomas that his daughter confessed to being “uncomfortable” during the stretching.
“I was absolutely shocked. I didn’t understand how she could be [uncomfortable],” Thomas stated. “We didn’t do much. Maybe I hurt her more? I didn’t know…with her back.”
But he later apologized to both parents and his student, making sure that they were okay with moving forward.
He then continued coaching her for a while longer and helped her to get in contact with colleges. Around this time, he also started coaching another 16-year-old girl, in West Sacramento and Thomas’s home in Arizona.
Between the new student’s first and second trip to Arizona, Thomas received a text message from the first student’s father. In the exhibit shown, the text message reads: “Buck, I’m texting you to let you know [that] we, as a family, cannot get over what you did…when you massaged her alone in her room.”
The text continued, saying, “If I had first known that night what I know now when we confronted you about it, I would’ve called the cops…I feel you mistook my kindness for weakness, and for that, I say ‘F*** you.’
“We tried to act like it didn’t happen, but what you did really affected (her). And I can’t believe we didn’t believe her when she first told us and even let her go alone with you, and she was terrified. That’s why we changed our work plans and never left you alone with her while you were here.”
The father then offered Thomas a chance for “this to go away without any more embarrassment” for his daughter as long as Thomas gave the family a refund of their $4,500, which the father intended to go toward counseling for his daughter. But if the refund was not received, the father warned Thomas that he would report the incident to the police.
Thomas then responded back that he would give the full refund and that he “never ever wanted to make (her) feel uncomfortable.” However, Thomas claimed that his wife didn’t agree to returning the money, and the refund was never made.
Later, a couple more sexual assault allegations were brought up to Thomas, one of which involved his newer student. All of these allegations concerned softball players who were trained under Thomas.
However, at the end of the direct examination, Thomas repeatedly testified that he never touched any of the players inappropriately nor forced them to engage in any sexual behavior with him.
Thomas’s testimony will resume on Monday in court when he will face his cross-examination with Deputy District Attorney Raymond.
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