Chad Curtis, a former MLB outfielder (most notably for the 1998 and 1999 World Champion New York Yankees), was suspended in early 2012 for allegedly touching teenage girls inappropriately while volunteering in the weight room at Lakewood High School in Lake Odessa, MI. Local Channel 8 News mentioned that he allegedly “touched the female athletes during therapeutic assistance to an injury, but it crossed the line into touching and kissing intimate parts.”
Curtis, now 46, was arrested and charged in May 2012 with six counts of sexual misconduct towards teenage students. At his trial, Curtis delivered an hour-long soliloquy about how he (with his newly found Christian beliefs) was the one who rebuked his female accusers and took it no further. Both the prosecutor for the case, Julie Nakfoor Pratt, and judge, Amy McDowell, would have none of it, finding him guilty and giving Curtis a sentence of seven to 15 years in prison. Judge McDowell was tempted to go above the standard guideline of 15 years, but didn’t want to give Curtis a reasonable excuse for an Appeal.
This month, a Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Curtis’ conviction and sentence. He claimed that during his trial in 2013, his attorney was inefficient at key points during the trial. However, the appellate court found that this was not enough evidence to justify a new trial.
The four teenagers at the heart of this endeavor are coming forward to file a federal lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Education against Curtis and the school district, alleging that school board members turned a “blind eye” to the actions and accusations of their beloved athlete-turned-teacher, even after conviction. Some school board members like Brian Potter and Garry Foltz were reportedly members of Curtis’ prayer group and even wrote post-conviction character references while keeping in touch regularly with Curtis’ wife and their Pastor, Dan Curry. There are also a number of texts and e-mails found as evidence being delivered this week as part of the teenagers’ complaint to the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights. These items of interest are correspondence between Potter, Foltz, Curtis and others.
The victims’ lawyer, Douglas Fierberg, said “While the criminal investigation of Curtis was ongoing, Lakewood refused to take any action to protect complainants, to remedy the hostile environment Curtis’ abuse had created or the additional hostility caused but retaliatory harassment. This blind devotion to Curtis is evident throughout (Curtis’) tenure at Lakewood.”
It’s both an unfortunate circumstance and sad truth of the world we live in that corruption can be found in all areas and levels of society, especially the ones we should be able to trust the most. Children are our most important resource; They are our future. But sometimes, as a society, we turn a blind eye to those we hold in high esteem, like our hero’s. We give them the benefit of the doubt, even though it’s in everyone’s best interests (especially those children that we should hold so dear) NOT to.
The fact is we’re all human, all imperfect. We all make mistakes. However we’re at the mercy of our societal indifference when we give someone (that we hold in such high regard) leeway, if only for an accomplishment or their social or spiritual standing. Unfortunately, you never really know someone until you know someone.
Sometimes we put our hero’s on too high of a pedestal and truthfully it’s something we should all be wary of and second guess ourselves on in today’s society, especially in the future. Regardless of how we feel about our hero’s, we need to think with a clear mind and always with a level head, especially when it comes to our kids. Children should be protected and given the benefit of the doubt because they’re innocent and haven’t yet been corrupted by this world we hold so dear; Not those who mostly have.. and just because he famously hit a home run in a World Series game in 1999.
Chad Curtis will be eligible for parole in 2020.