PROVO — A Springville baseball coach was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on charges of sexually abusing a teenage boy he coached and employed.
Dressed in a shirt and tie, the teenager, who was 16 at the time, testified Tuesday that it all started with a neck rub. From there it progressed to back rubs and eventually became a regular exchange of full-body massages with little or no clothing.
The teenager, whom the Deseret News has not identified, said he only objected on a few occasions, concerned for his job.
"I was getting paid good. Any 16-year-old would want to get paid $12 an hour for their first job," he said.
On the witness stand, the teen referred to the full-body rubdowns as "the regular massage."
The teen met Michael Aram Jenkins, 47, a few years earlier when playing baseball with the coach's son and over time he had gone to him for help training. When the boy needed money for the traveling baseball team last December, Jenkins hired him to do contract work, cleaning and doing data entry for his janitorial business, as he had with other players.
Jenkins was the coach of a traveling competition team.
Jenkins, of Springville, was charged in April with five counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony, and one count of sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor. He pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday as 4th District Judge James Taylor determined there was enough evidence to bind the case over for trial.
Cara Tangaro, Jenkins' attorney, said Jenkins maintains his innocence and is prepared to continue fighting the allegations.
According to the teen, he would work at Jenkins' office when he had time in between school and baseball practice, often coming in the evening to accommodate his schedule. In Jenkins' office, where a second desk was set up for data entry, Jenkins asked the boy for a neck rub on his fourth time coming to work.
In between the two desks in his locked office, Jenkins would strip down to his underwear and have the teen give him massages, the teen said. Eventually Jenkins began offering the teen massages in return to loosen up muscles that were sore from playing baseball.
In time, Jenkins requested that the full-body massage include his buttocks, the boy said, and began doing the same when massaging the teen.
On at least 10 occasions, the teen testified that Jenkins briefly touched him inappropriately. He said he didn't know whether the contact was accidental.
One day in the office, Jenkins asked to be massaged fully nude, covering just his buttocks with a blanket until he removed it for the massage to continue down past his lower back, the teen said.
"He said that was how they did it at a massage place and asked if I was OK with that," the teen said, responding he felt "scared and uncomfortable" on the occasions that Jenkins asked him to rub his buttocks.
Police were contacted after another player who worked for Jenkins came into the office during one of the massages and then went and talked to an adult, the teen said.
Throughout the hearing, testimony would stop as people, including a group of teenagers, came into courtroom and were sent out again out of concern they could be called as witnesses in the future. Ultimately, only Jenkins' parents and two victim advocates were allowed to remain.
On cross-examination, Tangaro questioned the teen about how frequently the massages occurred during the relatively short period of time he worked for Jenkins.
"This kid was a contract worker, he could simply not go into work, he canceled going in all the time, he could have quit at any time," Tangaro said in a closing statement.
The teen acknowledged under questioning from Tangaro that he knew Jenkins had a history of back problems and the two did not exchange inappropriate text messages or conversations. He also agreed that he recently told Jenkins' son that the situation has been "blown out of proportion," as Tangaro put it.
Jenkins will return for an Aug. 11 hearing before trial dates are set.