Nearly 20 months after Judge Frank Ochoa made the controversial decision to give probation to the former Santa Barbara High School girls tennis coach who had been convicted of several counts of having sex with and giving intoxicating substances to a minor, the judge sent a message Monday, sentencing Peter Jeschke to state prison for violating several terms of that probation.
Jeschke, a 38-year-old who has been in jail since being arrested for the alleged probation violations in January, was sentenced to seven years, eight months in prison, and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He originally only had to register as a sex offender for the duration of his five-year probation term.
After a four-day hearing in May, the judge found that Jeschke had used marijuana and alcohol, attempted to flush his system in order to avoid detection, didn’t report a second residence — that of a girlfriend who had a 17-year-old daughter — he was sleeping at most nights, accessed pornography on a computer, and was teaching tennis to a minor without a signed waiver from her parents, all violations of his probation. Ochoa noted that Jeschke had negotiated specific terms of his probation so the longtime tennis coach could continue to make a living, and that he violated those terms.
After the sentence was handed down, Jeschke had a look of disbelief on his face as he glanced over at his parents.
Ochoa’s lenient November 2009 sentence, staying the prison term and instating probation, raised some eyebrows at the time, but the sentence handed down Monday was the maximum. “We thought he should’ve been sent to prison in the first place,” prosecutor Anthony Davis said after the hearing. “This judge gave him an opportunity and he squandered that opportunity. I don’t think the judge had a choice.”
Instead of prison, the defense had recommended a highly structured set-up to get Jeschke help and rehabilitation. Defense attorney John Richards introduced a “going forward plan” which consisted of Jeschke living full time in a sober living home, attending mandatory house meetings as well as Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings, and enrolling in a CALM program. He would also have worn an ankle bracelet with GPS installed that would have constantly monitored Jeschke’s blood-alcohol content level, though Richards admittedly didn’t know much about how they worked.
While Davis characterized Jeschke as a groomer-predator who used his position of authority as a tennis coach to manipulate underage women into a relationship involving sex and drugs, Richards said that Jeschke did not pose a threat to the community or to young females. Richards noted that Jeschke taught tennis to the minors in violation of his probation only because he thought his attorney had secured the appropriate notice of acknowledgement release from the parents. “The evidence has been that he goes out of his way to avoid contact [with minors],” Richards told the court.
Drawing a comparison to a case Ochoa heard previous to Jeschke’s on Monday, that of a 21-year-old alleged gang member who’s accumulated probation violation after probation violation involving often violent activity, Richards told the court Jeschke was 35 years old before his first conviction. But Davis said reinstating probation, even at a more strict level, wouldn’t work when Jeschke showed he couldn’t even abide by the terms he himself helped tailor. “He’s just not going to be able to do it,” Davis said.
The trouble isn’t over for Jeschke, who still faces charges of dissuading witnesses and soliciting a person to commit a crime relating to alleged conduct during the first trial. He allegedly talked a former tennis player of his into sending threatening messages to witnesses during the trial, the day before the girls were to testify. It is unclear how the outcome in the current case effects the upcoming one. He is next in court on those charges on July 21.