Justin Sell, a 28-year-old former football coach for Dos Pueblos High School, appeared in court Monday to hear statements from the parents of a 17-year-old male student in a sexual offense case. Sell pleaded no contest to felony charges of engaging in oral copulation with the teen, contacting with the intent to commit a sexual offense, and stalking. Sell’s sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday.
According to Deputy District Attorney Von Nguyen, Sell — who took a plea deal recently after initially pleading not guilty to the charges following his arrest last year — will likely be sentenced to serve one year in jail and five years of probation. He will also be prohibited from contacting the student and will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Sell’s defense attorney, Michael Carty, said that the 365 days in jail could be served via electronic monitoring; that decision will be at the discretion of the Sheriff’s Department.
Sell was arrested in June 2013 on the felony stalking charge and was released on bail. Authorities later learned of the sex-related incidents and re-arrested him, Nguyen said. He was released on his own recognizance on those charges. Nguyen stated that Sell originally faced additional charges — which were dropped under the plea agreement — including two counts of forcible oral copulation of a minor and sending harmful material to a minor, particularly text messages that were sexual in nature. (Also dropped was a charge for stalking a different male high school student a couple of years earlier.)
Sell met the 17-year-old — The Santa Barbara Independent isn’t disclosing his name — when he was a high school freshman, Nguyen said. The criminal acts against the student didn’t occur until some years after that. Nguyen added that the student now “seems to be doing well in college” and that his family has since moved out of the area.
The student wasn’t present on Monday, but his mother and father both spoke. (District Attorney Joyce Dudley attended as well.) The parents talked about raising their children to “give everyone the benefit of the doubt,” to be “good Catholics,” and to wait until marriage before having sex. “My son viewed [Sell] as a mentor,” the mother said to Judge Clifford Anderson. “What [Sell] did to him was to violate him in every possible way.” She continued, “And my heart breaks because I could not protect him from him.” The mother said that forgiveness would be “the godly thing to do” but that she wasn’t at that point yet. “I’m not forgiving of him right now, and I hope he knows what he’s done to my son is wrong,” she said.
The student’s father, visibly upset, as was his wife, fluctuated between aiming his comments at the judge and at Sell. “I want the Bible to be ‘an eye for an eye’ right now,” he said to Sell, adding that he kept a “loaded shotgun” near his bed after he learned of Sell’s actions. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
According to the Santa Barbara Unified School District, which oversees Dos Pueblos High School, Sell had worked intermittently for the school district since 2007, with stints as an instructional assistant for special education and as a campus safety assistant. He also worked as an assistant football coach for Dos Pueblos, Carty said. In February 2011, Sell voluntarily transferred his campus safety assistant position from Dos Pueblos to Santa Barbara High School. According to the district, he resigned in May 2011. Whether he stayed on as assistant football coach after that remains unclear.