School District Sued for Sex Crimes of Former Dos Pueblos Coach

Justin Sell Had Groomed and Assaulted a 15-Year-Old Student

Former Dos Pueblos football coach Justin Sell was sentenced to one year in jail and five years’ probation on felony sexual assault charges in 2014. Now his victim is suing the Santa Barbara Unified School District for damages. | Credit: Paul Wellman

A victim of sexual assault by a former Dos Pueblos High School football coach is now suing the Santa Barbara Unified School District for monetary damages. 

The victim, referred to in court records as John Doe, and his attorneys claim the district failed to protect him from more than three years of abuse by Justin Sell between 2009, when Doe was a sophomore and 15 years old, and 2012. Sell’s crimes included making sexual demands of the victim, sending him suggestive text messages, and grabbing his genitals.

Following Doe’s graduation from Dos Pueblos, he reported Sell’s actions to his parents and to the authorities, and Sell was arrested in June 2013. During his criminal trial, Sell pleaded no contest to multiple felony charges and was sentenced to one year in County Jail and five years of probation. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Prosecutors at the time described how Sell, who was in his mid-twenties, “systematically and methodically groomed” Doe, mentoring and befriending him and referring to him as his “bro.”

The lawsuit was heard this week by Judge Thomas Anderle, who took issue with some of the technical elements of the legal arguments made by Doe’s attorneys. Mainly, that district officials allegedly failed to act as mandated reporters and didn’t do enough to train staff to recognize warning signs of misconduct. Anderle allowed the complaint to be amended, and the case will appear before him again at a later date.


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