Former Santa Barbara High School assistant tennis coach Peter Jeschke-arrested on Friday, December 14 for unlawful sex with a minor, possession of marijuana, and driving on a suspended license-was arraigned on Tuesday in Santa Barbara Superior Court. At a press conference on Monday, Santa Barbara School District Superintendent Brian Sarvis stated that Jeschke’s coaching contract had been suspended on December 11, after students and parents called the school with reports of an alleged sexual relationship between Jeschke, 34, and a 16-year-old student on the tennis team. “We initiated the police involvement because there was a lot of evidence for the allegations of initiated sex with a minor and providing drugs to a minor,” Sarvis said. The police investigation began on December 11, and Jeschke’s employment was officially terminated on December 14, when police say they had amassed significant evidence to arrest him.
Santa Barbara Police spokesperson Lt. Paul McCaffrey said that Jeschke, who was close with the family of the alleged minor victim, was invited by the minor’s parents on Friday to discuss allegations of alcohol use on a team trip to Disneyland in November. Jeschke reportedly drove to the family’s house near Hot Springs Road, where police were waiting nearby. Lt. McCaffrey stated that Jeschke was arrested without incident, although he was found driving on a suspended license, and was in possession and under the influence of marijuana. He also had an outstanding warrant from Los Angeles-the result of missing the last two of a series of classes required by his sentencing on a DUI charge.
Santa Barbara Police Detective Jim Ella said that some of the alleged sexual violations took place over a period of two days beginning November 21 at the house of a friend for whom Jeschke was house-sitting. Ella has also said that Jeschke allegedly gave the girl cocaine and Ecstasy on the second day. The owner of the upper Eastside home is not known to be involved in the case. A police search of Jeschke’s residence revealed less than one ounce of marijuana but turned up other evidence that was tied to the case. On Monday evening, charges of furnishing cocaine and Ecstasy to a minor and sexual assault on a minor were added to the list of charges against Jeschke. On December 18, however, Detective Ella stated that the police have not yet found physical evidence proving that any sexual encounters took place.
Jeschke, a popular private tennis coach for many area youths, started as an assistant coach during the 2005-06 season. Background checks at the time did not indicate a criminal record, and Santa Barbara High School Athletic Director Nan Verkaik said that Jeschke was considered competent for the position and was well liked by students. “We’re extremely disappointed,” said Mark Capritto, the school’s principal. “We interviewed several of our students, and the information that came from our students was pretty devastating.” According to police and Sarvis, Jeschke called one of the girls on the tennis team, urging her not to talk about events that had taken place. She was in the principal’s office at the time and put her cell phone on speaker.
There are some who give Jeschke the benefit of the doubt, however. “He’s a really honest person and a good role model,” said Evan Teufel, a junior on the Santa Barbara High School tennis team who has also taken private lessons from Jeschke for five years. “Personally, I don’t think he did anything. We talked about it a lot during the whole process.” As for the teen Jeschke allegedly assaulted, Teufel described her as “one of those quiet girls who keeps to herself.”
At his arraignment and bail hearing on Tuesday, Jeschke’s family and friends showed up to offer their support. After heated debate between the defense-Allen Bifano and Gabriella de Souza Ferreira-and Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley, with Dudley arguing that there was a slim likelihood Jeschke would return to court if released on bond, Commissioner Edward DeCaro set bail at $100,000. A date for Jeschke’s preliminary hearing will be set on Friday, December 21.