By Leslie Noia
OTTAWA - Emotions ran high as Jeremy Stober, former Kalida High School teacher and coach, began his trial in the Putnam County Common Pleas Court this week on multiple sexual misconduct charges.The victims, all former Kalida High School students, consist of five women who were students at the time of the allegations, including some who were volleyball players during Stober's coaching tenure. Stober is faced with charges including gross sexual battery, sexual imposition, sexual battery, importuning and tampering with evidence.
On Monday morning, the jury was selected and the trial began. The prosecutor began his opening statements by highlighting the amount of evidence and the key witnesses that will take the stand during the course of the trial. The prosecutor also shared several of the victims' statements and claimed Stober had been inappropriate and used his authority in a wrongful way. Stober's alleged crimes date back to 1995, with the most recent being in 2011.
Alleged victims have come forward with information regarding what they have described as inappropriate contact from the defendant. Witnesses who testified in court on Monday and Tuesday included former students of Stober as well as some co-workers at Kalida High School. One teacher who testified even admitted to having an affair with Stober while they worked together.
Defense attorney John Fisher stated during opening arguments the accusations were "the furthest thing from the truth" and said there was no evidence to support the charges against his client. The defense also stated the charges were brought based upon rumors and have simply snowballed into something bigger.
Two key witnesses were called to the stand on Tuesday, both alleged victims in the case. The first, who did not play volleyball nor was a student of the defendant, testified she began receiving text messages her junior year in high school. At first she did not recognize the message number and only later discovered it was Stober's cell phone number. Her initial reaction was shock; she did not understand why he would send her a message. As the year continued, she received more and more text messages from Stober and the messages started becoming sexual. According to cell phone records, the alleged victim received thousands of text messages from the defendant over the period of approximately two years.
When asked why she never came forward with any of this information, she replied the situation was embarrassing and she was hesitant to share a lot of the information in the beginning. "It was uncomfortable to talk about," she said. As the defense questioned her about the details of certain instances, she replied, "I tried to push it out of my mind," referring to an alleged event when Stober came to her house while her parents were not home.
In her senior year of high school, she reported the texts to the guidance counselor, but she claimed nothing was done about the issue. The victim said she believed if she tried to report it again no one would do anything about it. Eventually she came forward with information to friends' families after another alleged victim became public.
A second alleged victim took the stand and said the first time she received text messages from the defendant she was still in middle school. She was a volleyball player and a member of Stober's team when she advanced to high school. She explained at first the text messages began as only volleyball related. However, when she was a sophomore in high school, the text messages became sexual. According to the victim, he would allegedly text her on Friday and Saturday nights asking what plans she had for the weekend. She explained he would also share information about his personal life with her regarding marriage problems.
"He would often refer to him and his wife as roommates," she said.
The victim went on to claim Stober would also text her telling her he wanted sexual contact with her after she graduated.
"He would say guys in my grade were immature and he was a mature guy," she said.
She also spoke about an alleged instance when she rode to a district volleyball game in Stober's personal car. She explained he made the comment "If we really wanted to, we could skip the game and go off in the woods somewhere." Playing volleyball was very important to the victim and she did not want to risk her spot on the team by reporting the text messages she was receiving. "I hate being the person that would cause any problems in someone else's family. I did not want that to happen to him and his family," the victim said.
The trial will continue at the Putnam County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday morning as the prosecution and defense bring more witnesses and evidence to the jury.