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Ex-coach sentenced in statutory rape case

Jared Felkins • Mar 19, 2018 at 9:23 PM

Wilson County criminal court Judge Brody Kane sentenced Monday a former Wilson Central High School softball coach who was found guilty of two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure in November.

Michael Shepard received five years in prison for each of the two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure – to be served consecutively – for a total of 10 years in prison. 

Kane handed down the sentence Monday evening after more than five hours of testimony that included the father of the then-16-year-old student and player, who was also the victim in the case. The victim’s father spoke on behalf of the family. 

Julie Raines with probation and parole also testified on behalf of the prosecution when she read the presentence investigation report. 

Testimony also came from a psychosexual expert called by Shepard’s attorney. It was the same psychosexual court evaluation that pushed Shepard’s sentencing hearing to Monday from when it was originally scheduled in January. 

A psychosexual court evaluation focuses on an individual’s sexual development, sexual history, paraphilic interests, sexual adjustment and recidivism risk level. The evaluation includes a full social and family history, employment and school history, case formulation and specific treatment recommendations. The evaluation is meant to assist judges and other interested parties with making well-informed disposition determinations.

The mother of a former softball player, one of Shepard’s former students, a former employer not affiliated with the school and Shepard’s sister testified on his behalf. 

A jury found Shepard guilty in November of two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure.

Shepard, who was 36 at the time of the two incidents, had sex with a then-16-year-old Wilson Central High School student. Shepard was the softball coach at the school, and the victim was one of the players.

Shepard and the victim had sex two times at a boat ramp off State Route 109, the victim testified during trial. He did not force her, and she did not protest, said Assistant District Attorney Tom Swink, which meant he did not “rape” her.

However, state law defines statutory rape by an authority figure as sexual intercourse of a child between 13-17 years old by someone more than four years older than the victim. Since she was 16 and Shepard was 20 years older, that fact fit into the law, Swink said.

After the guilty verdict, Swink said, “justice was done for this victim, for this family.”

“I feel that the sentence is fair and that justice is served with this sentence,” Swink said.

Shepard was placed on the sex offender registry as a violent offender.

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