SAN DIEGO CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY MARY FRANCES PREVOST WINS VICTORY FOR COACH WRONGFULLY ACCUSED OF SEX CRIMES AGAINST PLAYER
By Matthew Rodriguez
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
5:40 p.m. September 8, 2008
VISTA – A judge dismissed charges Monday against a North County softball coach accused of having unlawful sex with a 17-year-old female player after a jury deadlocked in his trial
Defense attorneys for 37-year-old Christopher Facione, founder of the Next Level Athletics in Encinitas, said Facione felt vindicated by the dismissal.
“He is so happy to be able to clear his name after this ordeal,” said Mary Frances Prevost, one of his attorneys.
Prevost said the case revolved around the credibility of the player. “We were able to prove that the witness lied repeatedly,” she said.
Authorities alleged Facione had unlawful sex with the teen at his Carlsbad home on two occasions: Oct. 2, 2007, and sometime between Oct. 7 and Oct. 20, 2007.
Defense attorneys argued that the player stopped going to practice and lied to her parents about why by saying that Facione was harassing her, prompting her father to go to police.
“She couldn't stop the snowball from getting bigger and bigger,” Prevost said.
Jurors were split 8 to 4 in favor of acquittal for the alleged Oct. 2 incident, and 11 to 1 in favor of acquittal regarding the second.
“The jury had questions on the believability of the evidence,” said Sean Leslie, also an attorney for Facione. “They feel they didn't meet the burden.”
After jurors came back deadlocked, Judge Joel Pressman dismissed the case.
Facione faced a maximum sentence of three years and eight months in prison if convicted.
Prevost said prosecutors offered to reduce the charges to one misdemeanor count, without jail time, after their first witness, a Carlsbad police detective, took the stand. But Facione refused the offer, Prevost said.
Prevost said Facione is still involved with Next Level Athletics, an Encinitas-based youth sports organization, and will continue to coach, but he had stayed out of the dugout and limited contact with players while the case was pending.