Former Coach Found Guilty

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SCRANTON -- The trial of a former middle school baseball coach in Lackawanna County wrapped up on Wednesday.

A jury found Gavin Cerco guilty of having inappropriate online conversations with a 12-year-old girl.

Cerco was an assistant baseball coach for Abington Heights Middle School, when he was arrested back in April.

He admitted to having online conversations with a 12-year-old girl. That violated the school's policy, but was it criminal? Prosecutors believed it was, and a jury agreed.

It was a week's worth of back-and-forth Facebook messages with a 12-year-old girl that first landed Cerco in Lackawanna County court. Now, the former coach has been found guilty of corruption of a minor.

A jury came back with that verdict after hearing two days worth of testimony about those Facebook messages, and the sometimes bizarre circumstances that led to them.

In court, the victim read each message. Cerco started by asking about the kinds of clothes and underwear the girl wore. He eventually asked to borrow her clothes.

"She went to somebody at the school and let them know what was happening. She did exactly what we'd hope any child in this situation would do," said Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney, Mariclare Hayes.

Officials with Abington Heights contacted prosecutors, and they took the case to criminal court.

During the trial, Cerco testified that he is a cross dresser and contacted the victim to see if he could borrow some of her clothes and underwear. Cerco admitted he may have crossed a line, but didn't think he was doing anything criminal.

Cerco testified, "I didn't want to harm her. I was just embarrassed to go to the store, employees stare at you, and then they think you need medicine."

"The question before the jury was if this conduct offended the common sense of our community, whether or not it offended our social sense of decency and twelve people came back and said absolutely it did," said Assistant D.A. Hayes.

Cerco's attorney argued that since the Facebook messages weren't overtly sexual. They violated the school's policy, but not the law.

"Look at it, I have to wear a tie in court, what does it serve? What purpose does it serve? It's what society wants of us. So, society doesn't want him to communicate with a 12 year old about dressing," said Paul Walker, Cerco's attorney.

After his arrest last spring, Cerco was removed from his position as a baseball coach for Abington Heights.

He'll be sentenced in a few months. He faces up to five years in prison. Attorneys aren't sure if Cerco will have to register as a sex offender.