FARMINGTON — A former basketball coach and teacher will face trial on sexual abuse charges.
Stephen Paul Niedzwiecki, 34, was charged with eight counts of forcible sodomy, a first-degree felony; one count of attempted rape, a first-degree felony; and two counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in June. His trial is set for Feb. 4-7.
Niedzwiecki was a teacher and basketball coach at Jefferson Academy in Kaysville. The alleged victim had asked him for help with a project and the two began texting, emailing and talking on the phone and in person, the girl testified in a hearing in May.
Niedzwiecki kissed the then-15-year-old at the end of her freshman year in high school, the alleged victim testified. Their relationship escalated to sexual acts by the end of summer 2011, she said.
"I felt trapped after (one of the first sex acts)," the alleged victim testified. "I felt no one else would ever want me. He said he would marry me and he would share his parents' half-million-dollar inheritance with me and we would live a charmed life."
Niedzwiecki asked the girl about her faith, and the alleged victim’s family had the man in their home for him to investigate the LDS Church. He asked her parents for permission to date their daughter, and they declined.
The girl's parents knew about the discussion of marriage between Niedzweicki and their daughter but did not support it. The girl started looking for ways to end the relationship.
The relationship lasted from May 2011 until fall 2012, just after the announcement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that women could serve missions for the church at 19 years old. The change in the age requirement and a suspicion that Niedzwiecki had singled out another minor girl, spurred the teen to meet with her LDS bishop. The bishop involved authorities.
Niedzwiecki does not meet the technical legal definition of being in a position of special trust, defense attorney Cara Tangaro said after Monday’s hearing — something she will try to prove in trial.
In the May hearing, prosecutor Cristina Ortega said that because Niedzwiecki was the girl's teacher when they met, he was in a position of special trust.
"The (alleged victim) was clear from beginning to end that this involved a lot of pestering and I think you could say manipulation," the prosecutor said in May. "She did what she could to please this person she saw as a mentor."
The girl has since become involved in organizations that seek to put a stop to child sex abuse.