First Alert 4 Investigates: Jury finds no negligence at West County training facility where coach is accused of sexually abusing teen softball player

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 2:25 PM CDT
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CLAYTON, Mo. (KMOV) - A St. Louis County jury found a training facility in Ellisville where a softball coach admitted he had sexual contact with a teen player was not negligent for what took place.

The jury handed down the verdict Thursday after about an hour of deliberations. The player, going by Jane Doe to protect her identity, sued Bullpen Brothers Training Facility. According to the lawsuit, Coach Aaron Byington sexually assaulted Doe at the facility multiple times, including while stretching her in plain sight.

Byington admitted in a sworn video testimony that he had sexual conduct with Doe, something First Alert 4 first reported on in 2022. According to Doe, the abuse started when she was 17 and Byington was 36.

Doe is now 20 years old. In court, her lawyers argued Bullpen Brothers allowed Byington to be alone with Doe, including giving Byington a key to stay after hours and allowing him to follow Doe into a closet and stay there for an extended period of time, something that happened in front of staff.

Bullpen Brothers co-owner Jeri Deakin took the stand, saying she did not know what Byington did to the victim. Deakin also admitted her faculty did not have any rules to help prevent potential predators from abusing kids even though she was aware of the risk.

The verdict means Bullpen Brothers will not have to pay damages.

“Well, we thank the jury for their service, it’s a very tough case for both sides, so I don’t think we’re going to say we’re happy, but our client didn’t do anything wrong, so it was the right result,” Deakin’s lawyer John Schultz said after the verdict.

When asked if Bullpen Brothers would change their policies, Schultz said, “We don’t have any comment any further, appreciate your time.”

Doe’s lawyers sent News 4 the following statement about the verdict:

“The goal here was to protect young athletes from sexual abuse. The jury disagreed about a training facility’s duty to protect. It was all on record at trial. Jane Doe is disappointed, her goal is to protect other young athletes in St. Louis training facilities was rejected by the jury.”

Doe sued Byington and another coach Alex Wolters, along with several locations where she said the coaches sexually assaulted her. Doe says the abuse happened while she played for the St. Louis Stix, a competitive softball team for girls 18 and under that paid the Kirkwood Athletic Association to play on their fields. Byington was the head coach, and Wolters assisted him. Both men were also Kirkwood Athletic Association employees.

First Alert 4 Investigates obtained a video deposition of Byington and Wolters admitting what they did to Doe. The depositions are public records in the civil lawsuit.

Doe made a report with St. Louis County Police. Byington and Wolters were not criminally charged.

Kirkwood Athletic Association reached a confidential settlement with Doe.