That Nothing Happened Is The Most Irrelevant Of Your Excuses

An anonymous tip is something I take with a huge grain of salt.  Rather, a salt lick (and if you don’t know what a salt lick is, I’m not taking the time to explain it to you as we’re just too different).

However, the manila envelope addressed to “Cliff Judy” at KWCH with no return address had what looked like an intriguing (and troubling) tip inside.  The letter inside (again, not signed) gave me an ad for a Wichita auto shop, saying the manager cared about children.  He managed three Little League baseball teams and had even started a non-profit organization aimed at helping children grow through sports.

The auto shop manager was a registered sex offender.

Just the idea of this tip brought a much bigger-picture story to the forefront.  How many local Little League organizations check up on their coaches?  The answer I found:  about half.

This tip was as easy to verify as any because of public sex offender registries, and sure enough, it checked out.  Benjamin DuBose, 57, was convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old girl in 2001 (he was 48 at the time) and spent three years in prison.

Turns out DuBose only used to manage three Little League teams.  When I received my anonymous tip, he just managed the 12 & under team for his son’s baseball club in south Wichita.  He had not told players’ parents of his past.

To be fair, DuBose was released from parole in 2008, meaning it’s not illegal for him to be around children.  However, does anyone really think the idea of him coaching children was a good idea?  Really?

THE REACTION

My phone calls to DuBose’s son (I never got to talk to DuBose himself) and the league where he was managing led to plenty of passionate return calls.

I have to say I was impressed with Southwest Boys Club’s reaction.  They were open, honest, and took a “we screwed up, but we’re making damn sure it’ll never happen again” stance.

The reaction from DuBose’s family is better characterized as a series of excuses.

I was told DuBose’s relationship with the teenager was consensual.  I was surprised to hear this as DuBose is a former small town police chief and his son is a current law enforcement officer (men who should know that legally in Kansas, there is no such thing as consensual sex between a 15-year-old girl and an adult).

I should also note there had been no complaints to the league and only positive comments about DuBose from parents of this baseball team.  I have no overwhelming evidence to suggest he had any malicious intentions.

Let’s assume/pretend he coached the team for no other reason than to give back to the local community after paying his debt to society.  Theoretically, is this a good idea?  HELL NO!  For his own well-being’s sake, this is still a horrible idea.

What happens when 11-year-old Johnny complains to his parents that something happened at practice?  Who will the jury believe?  Johnny or Convicted Sex Offender?

I’ve talked to several law enforcement officers privately about this case.  In the words of one local police supervisor, “It just begs for something bad to go down.”

Nothing happened before we called?  Maybe that means you got lucky.

THE RESULT

The day after my phone calls, DuBose resigned his coaching position and the president of Southwest Boys Club (the league) called an emergency board meeting.  The board decided to change policies and require coaches have background checks.

THE UPSHOT

The president openly acknowledged this was something he hadn’t considered (and frankly, I hadn’t either until the tip).  We expect such protection with teachers, paraeducators, etc., but children are still around adults in non-school months.

As one Little League coach (in a league where background checks are done) said, “I think they just look at that coach or that volunteer and think, ‘They’re okay.  They’re coaching kids baseball.'”

I found about half of area Little Leagues require background checks, some don’t, and a few simply require coaches sign a waiver allowing the league to check into their backgrounds “as needed.”  A big reason for this for some leagues is simply money.  Background checks aren’t free, and there are a lot of coaches in each league.

I had a family member tell me, “Well, at least the guy hadn’t had sex with a teenage girl and was trying to coach softball or vice versa with boys.”  I responded, “When I was 11 or 12, would you have wanted to know that my coach had sex with a 15-year-old girl?”

They wrinkled their nose and said, “Oh.  Yeah, I’d have wanted to know.”

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