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Ex-Riverton High coach charged with rape, sex abuse ordered to stand trial

Published: Thursday, July 30 2015 2:42 a.m. MDT

Courtney Jarrell, a former math teacher and assistant basketball coach at Riverton High School, was ordered Monday to stand trial for object rape a first-degree felony, and forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony, involving a 17-year-old student. (Jordan School District) Courtney Jarrell, a former math teacher and assistant basketball coach at Riverton High School, was ordered Monday to stand trial for object rape a first-degree felony, and forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony, involving a 17-year-old student. (Jordan School District)

WEST JORDAN — The 17-year-old girl said she and coach Courtney Jarrell were on the bleachers at a basketball tournament in Roy when their relationship changed.

"She told me that she could treat me better than how my girlfriend was treating me," the girl testified in 3rd District Court Monday, adding that Jarrell said then what she would reiterate many times later, "that no one could find out or she'd get in trouble — she could lose her job."

Jarrell, 22, the now-former Riverton High School math teacher and basketball coach, was ordered Monday to stand trial on charges of object rape, a first-degree felony, and forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. Third District Judge Mark Kouris' decision came after a hearing on the evidence against Jarrell in which the alleged victim and her friend testified.

The teen said she met Jarrell when she went to an open gym for potential basketball players. She said she was introduced to the coach, who extended an open offer to help the teenager with math, if needed.

She didn't end up on Jarrell's team, but the two had something of a player-coach relationship. Eventually, the girl started to spend some of her lunch breaks and class periods in Jarrell's classroom.

"I had feelings for her so I just liked to go in her class and sit in," the girl said.

One day, Jarrell wrote a note conveying that she had feelings for the teenager, the girl said. She showed it to the girl and then tore it up.

The two exchanged phone numbers so they could keep in touch over Christmas break, and the girl eventually went with a friend to Jarrell's apartment, where she said they kissed for the first time.

The contact escalated to sex sometime toward the end of January and the first part of February. She said Jarrell told her they needed to be patient and wait until she was 18, but the girl told Jarrell that she didn't care.

"Then she would like say, 'Oh no, we can't do this you know … and that kind of just happened, we started kissing," the alleged victim said. "(Jarrell) just told me that no one could find out or we'd get in trouble."

The teenager said she did tell two friends what happened, one of whom eventually called her and threatened to tell her girlfriend if the girl didn't do it herself. She said she then called her therapist, assuming she would have to keep the conversation private.

"She told me after I was done talking to her that she couldn't keep this confidential because it was against the law," the teenager testified.

She said the last time she sent a text message to Jarrell was the "night it all came out," when she told her that people had found out about the sexual activity. "I just told her that it was out and I didn't know what to do and she just told me to keep her safe," the girl testified.

District officials said Jarrell had been teaching in the Jordan School District for just eight months when she was suspended after the district received "a complaint about inappropriate behavior." Jarrell resigned soon after to focus on her defense, said defense attorney Ken Brown.

Brown argued Monday that prosecutors failed to show that Jarrell used her position as a coach and teacher to exercise undue influence over the teen, but the judge said it wasn't his position to weigh that at this stage in the court process.

Jarrell was backed by a number of supporters Monday, one of whom declined to be interviewed but reiterated that Jarrell "isn't a monster." Brown said after the hearing that he believes they have a good case.

"Courtney wasn't using her position as a coach, I don't even know what position she had," Brown said. "These two people just fell in love."

An arraignment hearing has been set for Sept. 23.

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