Chess Coach Wilson facing trial July 14th

F. Leon Wilson at 2014 U.S. Open in Orlando.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Approximately one week ago, the Columbus Dispatch a story broke about F. Leon Wilson, highly-regarded coach and founder of both The Chess Learning Center and the KnightMare Chess Club. Sources in Columbus, Ohio report that Wilson was arrested on charges of inappropriate contact with a minor during a coaching session.

A 4-year old girl told her father that Wilson touched her improperly on April 7th at the Prep Academy School in Polaris. The father reported the matter to the Delaware County April 9th to authorities and based on the singular testimony of the girl, Wilson was arrested after he returned from an overseas chess tournament.

Wilson, 61, was in Delaware County Common Pleas Court last Friday on May 1st and plead “not guilty” to counts of “gross sexual imposition”. He is free after posting the $250,000 bond. The initial $500,000 municipal court bond levied by the Delaware County Jail was reduced to $250,000 because the adjustment of the charge from “rape” to “gross sexual imposition”.

Wilson initially faced a charge of rape, a first-degree felony, in Delaware Municipal Court, but that charge was dismissed pursuant to the grand jury’s indictment. (see article)

Although Wilson maintains his innocence, several of the schools have immediately cut ties. This amounts to more than a hundred chess players and more than a dozen schools. Wilson has been teaching chess for the better part of a decade is an active tournament competitor and a Life Member of the United States Chess Federation (USCF). He also has active teaching certifications with the USCF and FIDE, the world chess federation.

Wilson with fellow competitors
at the 2014 World Amateur Championship in Singapore.
Photo by Frank Johnson.

A cursory background check Wilson comes clean with only minor traffic violations. Prior to working with Prep Academy, he submitted to a rigorous background check. Following is an excerpt from Prep Academy’s Tom Runfola describing the process.

As soon as we learned of this matter we immediately contacted the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department to offer our full cooperation and assistance.

While we are aware that Mr. Wilson has been arrested, we do not know what if any formal charges will be formally pursued, nor are we privy to the status of the investigation. In the meantime, we have suspended after-school chess classes indefinitely.

We do everything in our power to ensure that every single person who comes into contact with our children is safe, trustworthy and beyond reproach. We regularly enlist the services of outside experts with extensive law enforcement experience, including experience with the U.S. Secret Service and the Crimes Against Children Task Force, to ensure that our security protocols are as strong as possible. A thorough background check on the accused individual found no cause for concern. (see article)

On Wilson’s website, it is mentioned that he had passed background checks by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (OBCI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

F. Leon Wilson
Photo by Frank Johnson.

After the first accusation, two other charges against Wilson have been launched. One based on the accusations of a 7-year old girl at the Bexley Academy and a young lady who was 13 when she alleged Wilson abused her 10 years ago. Although the mother got the police involved in the latter case, no charges were brought. The mother stated in the interview with WBNS-10TV that “it was her word against his”. There is a legal process in these instances to determine whether such charges have merit. It remains unclear why that process was not followed. Authorities in Delaware County are determining whether that case is relevant to the recent accusations.

As far as the current cases, Delaware County sheriff’s spokesperson Tracy Whited, could not provide any details about what occurred in any of the cases. Wilson appeared on a video in his prison-issued orange jumpsuit. While leaving the hearing, the cameras followed him after which the exasperated Wilson uttered, “Not guilty.” No other information about the accusations has been released.

Video by WBNS-10TV.

The Chess Drum’s text messages to Wilson have not been returned. It is likely that he has been told by his attorney not to give statements to journalists. Thus far, the public has not heard Wilson’s side and the story has been spread around the globe via news syndication. Lori Kurtzman, who ran one of the breaking reports, told The Chess Drum that she is looking for people in the chess community who are especially close to him in an effort to provide some balance to the story.

At this point, Wilson has been presented to the world as a child molester and sexual predator prior to being proven guilty. His ultimate fate rides on the testimony of a 4-year old and 7-year old. Nevertheless, even if he is proven to be innocent, it may have irreparable damage to his reputation as a chess teacher. There are a number of questions that will be raised in this case (and perhaps the 10-year old case), but certainly there has to be balance in how Mr. Wilson has been characterized in order that he receive fairness in his trial.

Sources

Dean Narciso, “Girl says teacher sexually assaulted her at preschool,” 28 April 2015.

Lori Kurtzman, “Rape charges against chess teacher worry parents, teachers at several schools,” Columbus Dispatch, 29 April 2015.

Lori Kurtzman, “New allegations emerge against youth chess teacher,” Columbus Dispatch, 29 April 2015.

Chess Instructor Accused Of Raping Children.” WBNS-10TV News, 1 May 2015.

Josh Poland, “Mother Speaks Out About Alleged Abuse By Chess Instructor,” WBNS-10TV News, 4 May 2015.

Thomas Gallick, “Alleged victims of chess teacher now number three,” Olentangy Valley News, 6 May 2015.

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

83 Comments

  1. Let there not be a rush to judgment. As a semi-retired attorney, former Administrative Law Judge, and high school educator who continues to work with at risk youth in and out of prison, I understand how easy it is to be placed on the express train to a guilty verdict. I am particularly wary of “trained investigators” who do little more than lead child witnesses and victims to conclusions that are not their own and which often never happened.

    To those working with children, don’t forget to use best practices like NEVER being alone anywhere with a minor. Make certain doors remain open and that other adults and children are always in view. There is safety for all concerned in public with multiple parties present, minor and adult.

  2. Thanks Atty. Lafferty!

    However, they have already rushed to judgment and it’s shameful. Mr. Wilson has not made a statement and is free on bond, but until July he is a disgraced man with the spectre of guilt hanging over his head.

    I agree with your sentiment have told coaches I know to be careful. As a professor, I’m also careful not to have my door closed when female students are visiting. It’s a shame, but all it takes is a disgruntled student to make an accusation and one’s life can take a bad turn.

  3. As usual, the rule of trial by public opinion is being applied here: Guilty until (and often after) being proved innocent. Of course, I do not have all the facts in the case, but neither do the folks pronouncing judgement.

  4. This is a most unfortunate situation, no matter how the facts (and the legal process) eventually play out.

    Another domino: USCF has removed Mr. Wilson from the Chess In Education committee. (This information is available on USCF’s BINFO repository of Executive Board communications.) I don’t blame USCF for this – the optics of having Mr. Wilson remain on that particular committee at this time are unacceptably bad.

  5. However, if he is innocent, how will his status be reinstated? This is the problem with this cases. The accused, even when proven guilty, suffered the residual effects of the charge.

  6. A not guilty verdict will not remove the indignity that this man will have to endure for the rest of his life. It’s a predicament that you never want to find yourself in. The legal system has zero tolerance for it and if you’re found guilty, hmm, who knows what awaits you in jail. Like Daaim said, a coach should use common sense when they are teaching or coaching children. Coach kids in clear view where there are other people around who can witness what’s going on incase an accusation is made. Who wants this gloomy cloud hanging over their head @ 61? Like the saying goes, life is what you make it and then you die.

  7. No doubt… especially a man of his ilk. If his is innocent, we will see how it plays out and if they announce it with the same vigor as they did in announcement of the accusation. We know the answer. All of those news stories on the Internet will never be taken down because they were from syndication which means news agencies picks them up from a wire and they spread.

  8. These cases are always bad, no question. USCF had no choice in removing Mr. Wilson, though. I think the concept is similar to what happens when a prosecuting attorney is facing disciplinary action – you have to take him off the trial calendar, because you can’t risk him being disbarred while handling a case. If he is proven innocent (which is different than being found not guilty), I think he could be reinstated to the committee via EB vote, the same way he was removed.

    As mentioned upthread, care in choosing the teaching environment is extremely important. When I coached, the only time I ever worked one on one with a student was in that student’s home, in a common room, with open access and at least one parent in the house at all times.

  9. I am not an attorney, but I would think that in these types of accusations, it’s incredibly difficult to find a defendant innocent once the case has been introduced in court. You will never be able to convince the skeptics that you are truly innocent and there lies the reason we say, once an assertion of sexual misconduct is made, the damage is instantaneous and permanent. It’s even conceivable that even folks in your own immediate family may have some reservation regarding your guiltless. So, at this point, I think the best he can hope for is a not guilty verdict to avoid going into retirement in a prison.

  10. Well… the evidence can talk. Besides the testimony from a 4-year old and a 7-year old will have to be vetted. I have gotten some information about the case that I cannot post here, but it will be interesting to see how the prosecution will approach this. Putting their clients on the stand will be risky.

    Boyd is right. Here is the problem. If the defense attorneys find flaws in the argument, then he may be found “not guilty” but people may not view this as innocence. This is unfortunate.

  11. According to that Delaware Gazette article cited above “Since Wilson’s arrest, prosecutors said several other alleged victims have come forward.”
    Is several more than the two others mentioned earlier? Or is there additional alleged victims? This doesn’t sound good.

    1. There is no specificity in the comment, but they will have to have some serious evidence other than a claim. Otherwise, how does one stop random accusations? What would stop any student from making such a claim on a coach and a parent suing for damages? In this case, a 4-year old made a claim of Wilson touching her… later a 7-year old. A 23-year old made some claims from 10 years ago. The latter is strange because they got the police involved and then they dropped the matter. Why would they drop such a serious matter? In this case, you go from “rape” to “sexual imposition” from “inappropriately touched” to ” touching clothed private areas”. The degrees of offense is tremendous. The way the entire case has unfolded is strange.

  12. In the case of that 23 year old, her mother stated it was “her word against his” and the police investigators dropped the charge (or claim). Apparently there was no evidence to support her claim.

    1. Then why bring it up now? I suppose they feel their claims are more credible it seems. However, they didn’t follow the proper course. If you are serious, your case doesn’t stop with the police.

  13. NBC4 Staff, “Chess instructor indicted on additional charge after another victim comes forward,” 17 July 2015.

    This appears to be the same charge that was mentioned in the original article. They do not give details. The 4-year old brought two counts. It would be interesting to see if testimony of the 23-year old will be allowed since Wilson was never arrested and charged and the family never pressed the issue.

    I have witnessed children literally taken any type of touching from a teacher or a relative as an imposition because their parents said “If anyone ever touches you…” We will see if these children understand the difference. It would have been an unfathomable risk to take in a crowded setting to molest a child. Was he alone with the 4-year old???

    We’ll have to see how the trial plays out. How does one avoid a scenario where the young children are not coached on what to say.

  14. I jsut hope the truth comes out! Working with a child as young as 4 or 5 is already a delicate subject. Ocassionally, I do sense a lack of communication betwen parent and child. When I have received inquiries about teaching to a child this young, I always recommmend giving lessons to the parent and they promote chess as a bonding experience with their child. Surprisingly, many parents are angered by my suggestion.

    1. It’s a good idea for today’s environment. It is so risky. Any child could make an accusation and you’re going down. I warned another coach of this. I remember a child I had seen in a foreign country who tried to friend me on Facebook. She was 12. I didn’t accept it. Another time someone contacted me out of the blue and I thought it was a little boy. I told him he should tell his parents he is talking to me. It was his mother! She thanked me for being thoughtful. You can never be too careful.

  15. Good recommendation Daaim! We are living in a very unpredictable and perilous time. “You can never be too careful” is not a sarcasm. I’d go an inch further and also endorse using Skype or some other means when instructing children under and above a certain age. It’s just not worth it.

  16. Does anyone else on here know him personally? I am a female and I was a student of his from ages 8-15 and he was always all business. He never said an inappropriate word to me. There were always at least a few parents present, usually many other kids and adults. He would never have been alone with me. After highschool I spent a few summers helping him with camps as well. I never saw him act innapropriately. Ever. I just can’t believe any of this. I don’t want to this this is even possible. I guess you never really know.

    1. The entire story is strange. It is hard to believe that a coach would develop such an illness if a pattern of consistency had not been detected before interacting with thousands of children. Where is the proof they can get from a 4-year old? 7-year old? Is there a video? They will certainly be coached by their parents on what to say at this point. How is it that a person can be arrested on the spot because of an accusation from a pre-schooler? If so, what coach or teacher will want to take such a risk with children?

      If a man is in jeopardy of going to prison based on an accusation of child molestation, then perhaps accusers should also be required to put something on the line. We’ve seen the damage to men being sent to prison for 10, 20, 30 years for crimes not committed… at no risk to the accuser. How things would be different if false accusers have to pay a hefty fine (up to $250,000), receive a public shaming in the media and the incident put in personal files of the parents.

  17. I also knew Mr. Wilson personally. M daughter was on hi chess team for three years between 6-9 yrs old and I acted as an “unofficial” assistant to him at the schools chess team practices, travelled to many chess tournaments with he and the team, and had personal interaction with him regarding team strategies, how to best help the kids,etc. In those three years I never saw an behavior from him that I would have remotely considered innappropriate. Personally, I thought he was a bit overly self-promoting…which, I guess he was, since he said so himself 🙂 But, never anything like is being stated by the accusers. Note that all of my interactions with the team and with Coach Wilson (beside my interactions with my own daughter, of course) were in very public places. I do know that several parents would pay Mr Wilson to give private lessons to their kids, but even those (to my knowledge) were in public areas of the school or at the homes of the families in question. I, of course, couldn’t speak to what may or may not have occurred in those instances. This is all pretty surprising, to be truthful. I have no clue as to guilt or innocence but I can say I never witnessed anything pointing in the direction of misconduct.

  18. Daaim – In a civil proceeding, judges sometimes do what you suggest, after the fact. They force the plaintiffs to pay the legal fees of the defendants if they determine that the prosecution was without merit, and malicious. This case however is a criminal situation, which means that the prosecutors have convinced a grand jury to bring charges. In other words, the taxpayer/citizens have decided that they want to spend the money to prosecute. Anyone can make accusations, but if the DA or the grand jury doesn’t see the merit, it ends there.

    1. Well… I cannot say all that I know, but to prosecute such a case may be quite difficult to do without relying on the testimony of a child who will be coached on what to say. If a 4-year old says a man touched her, how does that man prove he did not? There are no cameras. In fact, the girl can’t prove he did. I hope the truth comes out, but it doesn’t appear that Wilson will get fairness.

      1. My comment is not about the facts of the case, of which I know nothing. Only that just making an accusation is not all that it takes to bring a matter this serious to trial. The DA’s office, who realizes that it could be very unpopular to prosecute a beloved community member, has to be convinced that the case has merit. And they have to convince a grand jury, again, made up of everyday people, many of whom would be skeptical like you suggest, to issue an indictment. Of course there are many cases of accusers, kids or otherwise, being influenced to lie. Whatever the outcome, this is a sad situation for all involved.

  19. Even with the testimony of the 4 year old child, I would think it’s still very difficult for the prosecutor to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the incident actually happened without presenting other facts that we may not be privy to.

    1. I appreciate it. It seems as if this is charges for the second girl. Two counts on 4-year old girl and one count on the 7-year old. No new victims apparently. Looking forward to seeing how this case unfolds.

  20. Things are not sounding good for Mr. Wilson. All we can pray for is for the truth to prevail.

    1. Well… the lawyers of the second victim has simply filed a charge. They had accused him, but no charged was file apparently. I’m hoping the truth comes out and interested to see how the girls will describe the interactions.

  21. Any further update or information? It is my understanding that Mr. Wilson will go on trial on Oct. 5. Is this true?

  22. Update!

    It looks like coach fired his second attorney after she tried to have him accept a plea deal with a short prison sentence and probation. He states that he lost confidence in his lawyer and claims that she wanted to drop him as a client. The trial, which was set for a week or so from today has been delayed again until January 5th, 2016.

    Here’s an article if you want to read more. The chess puns are pretty unbearable though.

    https://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/10/06/teacher-sex-charge-deal-rejected.html

    Also, thank you everyone for not jumping to conclusions about coach Wilson’s guilt. When I see reference to him on most other media, almost everyone is declaring him guilty without knowing him or the alleged victims. It’s really nice to discuss an old friend and mentor without having to read a bunch of hate.

  23. What happened to presumed innoncent until proven guilty? How can he get a fair trial with this judge? I hope he does not get railroaded. Does anyone know the ethnicity of the kids?

        1. If Coach Wilson is not guilty as he has pleaded I suspect the local political/social system might still be looking for a lynching to protect the “integrity” of the kids especially if the kid’s version is false, vague or even induced by parents. Another scenario is that the community has decided that Coach Wilson is not serving the best interest of a certain ethnic/class in the community and local decision has been made to decommission him. My pesonal experience teachng chess to young kids is a joy and a pleasure especially seeing kids eyes light up when they understand that they are capable of using their minds. And ther is a great sense of bonding and appreciation kids will express even years later. Yes, I have had parent object to me teaching their kids because of color!

    1. The 23-year-old woman who is now alleging abuse 10 years ago is African-American. Her mother went on a news source and described the relationship and though her face was blurred I could tell she was African-American, so the daughter is at least partially. I don’t know about the other girls.

    2. I know that the mother of the 23-year-old who alleged misconduct ten years ago was on a news source. Though her face was blurred, I could tell she is African American. Unless her daughter is adopted, she is as well. I don’t know the race of the other alleged victims.

  24. I still can’t seem to find any information about what happened to Mr. Wilson. I can’t find any information online. Has anyone heard any news about the trial?

  25. Tough situation! Nobody wins! If he didn’t testify , he would have been toast. Now that he’s testified, it’s really sad because he sounds believable, and yet the puzzling question is, Why would a 4 year old …

  26. The defense lawyer seems to have done a good job.

    One thing I will say about the chess tables set up in the court room were ridiculous. No one gives a private lesson with two tables and two chess boards as shown. Irrelevant? I think not.

  27. I once witnessed F. Leon Wilson pick up a kindergarten boy, carry him over his shoulder to the child’s board during a tournament. So, Mr. Wilson’s statement “The only type of contact I had with any student, I think that was the implication of the question, was high-fives; and church hugs” is not true. Just sayin.

  28. yeah, saying the ONLY type of contact he had with any student, was high-fives, should have been enough said. Adding church hugs in a chess environment wasn’t necessary and probably won’t help much.

  29. IMO, a church hug seems more suitable when it’s done between a parent and child. There’s nothing wrong with a coach simply telling his student, good job or well done.

    1. Point taken Guy, but bear in mind, he is not being tried for a hug. It’s still rather common between coaches and junior players. Of course, now since we have all kinds of child molestation cases, parents are more cautious and coaches have to be more vigilant in protecting themselves.

      If I was a coach I would have video cameras and demand that a parent be present. If the parent has to go to the bathroom, the child has to go with them. Really?? No… this would be ridiculous, but this is where we are going. If this trend continues, coaches will only be able to text their player, “Congratulations”… with no smileys.

      There is nothing to stop a child from accusing a coach, at any moment, of molesting or touching them. Nothing. Parents will believe their children 100% of the time. That person can be arrested and even if they did not do it, their name is sullied. People will simply say, “not guilty” is not the same as “innocent”. There will still be doubt.

      I am not sure if I would coach with this type of scrutiny. It’s a thankless job already in addition to being under a microscope. What is society coming to? If we have to be this cautious, then have the child play and receive lessons online. We complain that children don’t play outside anymore and are socialized by screens (computers, cell phones and TVs), but this is the type of world we’ve built.

  30. In general, I would have the same opinion that he is not being tried for a hug, but the fact that he is being tried for inappropriate contact, I don’t think it was needed for him to be vivid about how he passed on his good wishes to his student. It opened up the door for prosecutors to search for inconsistencies. In fact, a commentator has already mentioned that he had observed otherwise. I just think it’s clever to answer with less when you are the defendant. In truth, we don’t really have that many cases where 4 year olds are making these types of allegations. However, I totally agree that the world has changed drastically and yes, we certainly need to be more careful when working with children.

  31. If he did not mention that then someone would have said, “I saw him giving a church hug too.” I believe you have to have open disclosure. I’m sure his attorney coached him.

    I don’t think picking up a student and carrying them to the board is the same type as intentionally reaching for them and touching them on the body with one’s hand. I believe Wilson was talking about the type of touching occurring in a rather personal and emotional way.

  32. I hope for the best, but a retrial has got to be uncomforting to Mr. Wilson. I’d like to know what specific issue caused the Jury to freeze. Anyway, if he is found not guilty, can he be repaired?

    1. It is discomforting because he had to endure yet another trial and the prosecution can shore up their mistakes. Bear in mind, the jury count is not public. It could have been 9-3 or 11-1 in favor of “not guilty”. We’ll have to wait and see when the records become public. Nevertheless, to have to endure a second trial is always a drain because you have endure the emotion anguish again.

      1. The jury was leaning to guilty!! The three not guilty wanted solid evidence of being caught in the act or filmed.

        1. Hmmmm. It’s interesting you say that. According to attorneys, this is NOT supposed to be public information. Where did you get this information? Were you a jurist?

    1. That information would not be in the court records. You must be talking to some who is giving out information illegally… or some type of a leak.

  33. Coach Wilson’s case information is all online and available for public view. Delaware County Clerk of Courts case 15CRI070319 and the Jury Panel Sheet is listed 02/23/2016. Glad he was able to get the GPS monitoring device and House Arrest removed.

  34. Miserable ending for Mr. Wilson, but based on what I have observed from my own kids over the years is they don’t and can’t hold on to secrets. Good or bad, they will sooner or later let mom, dad, their best friend or even a third party on the secret. I wish Mr. Wilson the best.

  35. Chess is experiencing quite an increase in interest especially among the youth as major tournaments worldwide are often dotted with scholastic players. This boom has necessitated the demand for able instructors, coaches and trainers. With the demand, comes increasing contact of adults and minors. It is rare that there is a conflict, but when there is one, it is usually a matter of the two parties not being able to get the results desired … so there is a parting of ways. Rarely is there anything more serious than a disgruntled customer or parent.

    Ohio v. Leon Wilson

    Last year, F. Leon Wilson was accused of inappropriately touching a 4-year old minor during a chess lesson. This came after the parent informed the police about a conversation he had with his daughter. In the case of Wilson, we was a highly-regard coach and has been teaching in the Columbus area for a number of years with great success. He had submitted to a number of background checks with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (OBCI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). When the allegation arose, Wilson had been returning from a tournament in Greece when he was apprehended in the airport and placed under arrest before any investigation was done. After he was arrested, a 7-year old came forward to make a similar claim.

    The initial charge was first-degree felony of “rape,” but later downgraded to fourth-degree “gross sexual imposition.” He posted bail on a $250,000 bond and has been free ever since. All of this changed within a year. Social media excoriated Wilson and tended to paint him as guilty before any evidence was presented. Another 23-year old accuser came forward with a 10-year old claim, but it was not admissible. Wilson submitted to a polygraph test prior to the trial and it came out that he was “truthful.” These results, however, would not be admitted as evidence. After four grueling days of the first trial in February, the jury could not come to an agreement and a mistrial was declared.

    F. Leon Wilson at February trial
    Photo by nbc41.com.

    In the second trial, a DNA test was offered during the trial, but it showed no connection to Wilson. Another source says that the DNA of another male was found on the clothing of one of the girls. There was no other evidence and while the prosecuting attorney Mark Sleeper admitted there was not much physical evidence, he offered that there are such cases where DNA cannot be found. It boiled down to the testimony of the two girls. It appeared in the first trial there was a failure to convince the jury of Wilson’s absolute guilt. In the second trial, the jury reached a “guilty” verdict. The question would be, what changed in the second trial? What was the burden of proof that convinced this assembly of jurors? If there is no DNA, no audio, no video, no witnesses then what is the basis of the conviction?

    Are Chess Coaches Safe?

    Accused of “gross sexual imposition” on a minor, Leon Wilson was found guilty on two of three counts and will face sentencing July 29th. The verdict begs the question, “How are chess coaches and trainers protected from these allegations?” One may glibly answer, “Well… they shouldn’t molest children.” Of course not and any pedophile or child molester should be held to the letter of the law. Let’s look at it a bit deeper. What is to stop any angry child from leveling a charge against their coach and what would their defense be?

    F. Leon Wilson
    Photo by Frank Johnson.

    If a passed polygraph and a negative DNA test are not sufficient and if there is no other audio-visual evidence, then it is the word of the accuser versus the accused. In this case and 4- and 7-year old accused Leon Wilson of inappropriately touching them during a chess lesson. This means that chess coaches have to take precautions to protect themselves. What precautions?

    In order for coaches to protect themselves (and thus protection of child), they should resort to video taping every private session (or not giving private lessons), having at least one parent present at all times, having the lesson in a public facility, or having the lessons on the Internet (also with parents watching). If only one parent is present and they have to leave the room, then the lesson must stop and the child has to go with them. If parents don’t submit to being there at all times, then should the coaches deny the service? This is now a legitimate question. Of course, this is cumbersome to carry out, but if Wilson can be convicted without any evidence and a mere accusation, then what precautions should a coach take?


    There is no charge easier to make in America, perhaps the world, and more difficult to disprove than a teacher, a coach, a relative being accused of touching over the clothing, inappropriately, or sexually, or molesting or sexually assaulting a child.”

    ~Brad Koffel, Defense Attorney for F. Leon Wilson


    Coaches/Parents: Protection is Vital

    In the Wilson case, there was no shred of physical evidence that he had molested the two girls, yet their words were credible in the eyes of the jurors and the cries of emotional parents touched all those guardians who dread the day that they will face such a situation. The defense contended that the girls were coached by their parents to testify credibly in the court. Of course, but it’s up to the legal system to uphold due process and the mantra “innocent until proven guilty.” Wilson was arrested at an airport prior to any proof (other than the accusation). If a child utters to a parent, “My coach touched me,” and that parent calls the police who arrests them on the spot, perhaps we have come to the end of the road in terms of due process. In this day and after this verdict, it is doubtful that coaches will want to continue to take such a risk.

    Photo by myfox28columbus.com.

    We are moving into a society where people are becoming disconnected due to cell phone, social networking and video conferencing. Are we coming to a time where children will receive all of their chess instruction via cell phone or computers? Not likely, but the Wilson case is a lesson for all of us who want to share our joys of chess and its inherent benefits. This verdict sets a precedent for future. Coaches and trainers should take precautions (as should the parents) to ensure of the safety of both parties.

  36. I was a juror on the case. We were told that we are allowed to say anything we want about the case now that it is over. Before we were not allowed to research the case, discuss it, or have it discussed in our presence. I can answer any questions any of you have barring any personal information about either myself or the victims. Both girls who were independent of each other, and attending different schools described incidents with a remarkable degree of similarity taking place. There were discrepancies in F. Leon Wilson’s accounts and he was not able to show lack of opportunity (which is not damning in it of itself). He was not able to provide any reason the victims parents or the victims themselves had to make up the allegations. I myself have questioned juries decisions to incarcerate someone based on the testimony of a child, but hearing the children themselves speak about the incidents left no doubt in my mind that they were telling the truth. The body language they displayed and their knowledge of adult topics showed that something clearly happened. I found this forum the night after the decision and figured i could possibly shed some light. I know I would want answers if someone i knew and trusted had been convicted of an offence of the severity of this.

  37. Strange that no one defending Mr. Wilson in this thread has asked a question of this juror.

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