Basketball Coach Hit With Additional Assault Charge

Proclaims His Innocence While Judge Maintains $500,000 Bail

Bruce Duane Nelson

An additional charge has been filed against Bruce Duane Nelson, 55, a Solutions Rehabilitation Center staff member and assistant boy’s basketball coach at Santa Barbara High School, who has been charged with sexually assaulting a patient while she was at the center. At a bail hearing in Santa Barbara Superior Court Wednesday, Senior Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley filed a charge of oral copulation in addition to four other sexual assault charges previously filed against Nelson.

All of the charges are related to the same Jane Doe One, a 22-year-old woman and former Solutions patient. Nelson, who has pled not guilty to the charges, was arrested by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department at his home July 30 on two counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object, one count of assault with intent to commit rape and one count of sexual battery on an institutionalized victim.

While the charges are related to one victim, Dudley said, there is another person present in the “description of what happened,” and as the investigation continues, more charges could be brought forward related to the second woman, Jane Doe Two. Sgt. Erik Raney, spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department, said both women were conscious and aware of what was happening when the incidents allegedly took place, but were “unable to defend themselves for a variety of reasons,” he said. Jane Doe One had reduced physical abilities, and also, because of Nelson’s position, she felt intimidated and uncomfortable coming forward, Raney said.

Nelson, who worked at the center for roughly five years, allegedly attempted to have intercourse with Jane Doe One, and also allegedly penetrated the woman with his fingers. Raney wouldn’t give any details based on evidence gathered, other than to say that “based on the investigation we developed a probable cause to make an arrest.

Nelson, who was originally being represented by the public defender’s office, is now being represented by attorney Steve Balash. Nelson didn’t return phone calls from the Independent. Balash said his client denies any wrongdoing. “We certainly believe we have a defensible case and we intend to fight it,” he said. It’s a strict he said-she said case, Balash explained. He also noted that in three or four statements given about the incident, the victim has apparently had conflicting statements.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Balash attempted to lower Nelson’s bail – which is set at $500,000 – while Dudley tried to make it higher. Judge Joseph Lodge decided to keep bail at its current level which came as a disappointment to Balash. “From my standpoint, if you are a danger to society, then the judge can deny bail,” he said. “Otherwise you’re entitled to a reasonable bail.”

Dudley also revealed Wednesday that a third woman came forward to the Santa Barbara Police Department in February, claiming that she was raped by Nelson 26 years ago. While the alleged incident is too old to file charges on, the incident may be considered at the time of trial, Dudley explained. The woman reported that she had been dating Nelson, and one night, when she went over to his house to break up with him, he forced her to have sex with him. Balash said that under the state’s evidence code, Nelson is entitled to a hearing to determine whether that information is admissible during trial. “How do you defend yourself against an accusation that’s 26 years old?” he asked.

Nelson was the head coach of the boy’s basketball team at Dos Pueblos High for the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons and also served as an assistant for the boy’s basketball team the past two seasons at Santa Barbara High, where his son is a standout basketball player. Walk-on coaches are hired for one season at a time, according to Barbara Keyani, a spokesperson for the school district. Contracts are renewed on a “season-by-season basis, contingent on the availability of funds and/or satisfactory performance,” she wrote in an e-mail Tuesday. Such coaches must comply with employment requirements, which include being fingerprinted. Nelson was let from Dos Pueblos when the head coaching position went to a teacher employed at the school, in accordance with California law. “A teacher must be given the opportunity to accept or reject the position,” Keyani said. “That is part of the process that must be adhered to.” She added that it was too early to tell whether an opening would be available and whether Nelson would be filling it. Nelson also coached girl’s basketball at Bishop Diego High School in the 1990s, although it isn’t clear how long he was a coach there. A former student at Bishop Diego, who played girl’s basketball under Nelson, said that although the coach would have a bad temper, she never saw him hit or hurt anyone, and “can’t imagine he’d do something like this. He’s one of those people who definitely could yell their face off at you,” she said.

Nelson will be back in court September 26 for a preliminary hearing setting.


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