The hearing in U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken’s court lasted hours.
In it, victims testified, speaking of how their lives had changed because of a gymnastics coach: One said she no longer felt comfortable in changing rooms; another said she won’t ever like being physically embraced, the Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune reported.
Aiken, the judge, spoke at the hearing, too.
“I could see the lack, frankly, of life in your eyes,” Aiken told the girls, according to the newspaper. “Get it back.
“The best way to survive this case is to go out and have a great life.”
The statements from victims and Aiken came at a hearing for Jeffrey Scott Bettman, a 57-year-old former gymnastics coach in Oregon who on Thursday was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He had previously pleaded guilty to 11 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, as well as one count of distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography, according to a Department of Justice news release.
Bettman will be placed under lifelong supervised release after he leaves prison, and had to forfeit his computers and cameras.
“This man is an animal, and he is a predator in the truest sense of the word,” one victim’s parent testified, the Medford Mail Tribune reported.
Bettman coached for more than 30 years in California and Oregon, according to the release. He caught the attention of law enforcement after an undercover investigation and eventually admitted to secretly recording gymnasts while they changed for photo shoots.
“Mr. Bettman not only traded in child pornography, he attempted to create his own using the athletes he coached,” the government’s sentencing memorandum states. “He violated their trust and the trust of entire community.”
Authorities found more than 400 hidden-camera videos during a search of Bettman’s home, according to the Department of Justice news release. On the videos, they identified 49 gymnasts, who were 8 to 16 years old. Investigators also discovered more than 200 photos, which were taken from the video footage.
Bettman also admitted to having, receiving and distributing child pornography online, the release states.
“He has not only victimized unknown children by trading child pornography, he has, for decades, been victimizing the athletes he coached,” the sentencing memo says. “Those athletes and their parents trusted Mr. Bettman and he abused that trust by attempting to create child pornography to meet his sexual needs.”
The Mail Tribune reported that victims and parents in court called Bettman a “a master manipulator” who convinced girls to never speak up by pitting “kids and parents against each other.”
Here’s more from the Mail Tribune, with details of the sentencing hearing:
“Some of his victims testified how Bettman regularly touched them inappropriately and often berated them in front of parents, all of whom were conditioned over time not to go against Bettman for fear of a ruined career for the girls.
“Some spoke of eating disorders and self-esteem issues after being fondled by Bettman, one telling the court, ‘I will never like being touched or physically embraced by others.’ ”
Many testified how knowing they were secretly filmed robbed them of looking fondly at their gymnastics past and cloaked their present and future.
There isn’t evidence that Bettman distributed the pictures of the gymnasts he videotaped, authorities said, although he did admit to distributing child pornography that he downloaded.
“People in positions of trust have a special duty to protect our children, and Bettman, a gymnastics coach, violated that duty,” Billy Williams, U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon, said in a news release.
Bettman’s attorney on Monday declined to comment.
The sentencing comes not long after the Indianapolis Star published an investigation about sexual abuse in women’s gymnastics.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Sarah Larimer