Longtime local swim coach appears in court
A longtime Ceres swim coach accused of sending suggestive messages to two teenage girls on his team pleaded guilty Tuesday, a few days after his trial started in Stanislaus Superior Court.
Tracy Bull pleaded guilty to annoying and molesting a child, a misdemeanor charge stemming from allegations from a 14-year-old girl identified in court as “Jane Doe 1,” the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office announced on its Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.
Bull pleaded no contest to annoying and molesting a child, also a misdemeanor charge stemming from allegations from a 17-year-old girl identified as “Jane Doe 2,” according to prosecutors.
The defendant was facing those two misdemeanor charges when his trial began Thursday morning. Prosecutors did not drop any charges in exchange for his pleas.
Bull is scheduled to return to court Jan. 14 for his sentencing hearing. Prosecutors said Bull faces a maximum sentence of two years in county jail and will have to register as a sex offender.
At the time of his June 15, 2016 arrest, Bull had been coach of the Ceres Dolphins Swim Team for about 12 years, according to authorities. The recreational team, which used the Ceres High pool, included swimmers from Ceres, Modesto, Turlock and surrounding communities.
Several hours after the coach’s arrest, the Ceres Dolphins board announced it had suspended Bull pending the outcome of the police investigation. The team — in existence for several decades — included about 170 boys and girls from 5 to 18 years old.
Bull also had coached boys basketball and water polo at Ceres High School during the school year before his arrest. A Ceres Unified School District assistant superintendent said at that time that Bull would no longer coach for the district.
Deputy District Attorney Ahnna Reicks prosecuted the case. In her opening statement, she told the jurors Bull crossed boundaries and betrayed the girls’ trust when he sent them suggestive messages.
The prosecutor said in court that “Jane Doe 1” was horrified and burst into tears when Bull sent her a Facebook message describing a dream he had about her. Reicks said Bull told the girl he was laying down after a swim meet with his hand on her hip, and she pushed up her hip.
“She knew right then and there that the conversation had turned sexual,” Reicks said about the girl.
Kirk McAllister, Bull’s attorney, told the jury that in the Facebook messages Bull had explained to the girl that he had this dream after falling asleep while having his hand on his wife’s hip; and in his dream he saw the girl.
The defense attorney also told jurors that the defense would present witnesses associated with the swim team who “were not cherry-picked” by the prosecution.
Investigators conducted a forensics test on Bull’s cell phone. They found a string of suspicious digital messages to “Jane Doe 2,” the older girl on the swim team.
The prosecutors told the jury that in a series of messages Bull told “Jane Doe 2” that he was jealous of a boy who liked her, and that he was born 30 years too soon.
McAllister told the jurors that the coach was encouraging “Jane Doe 2” to date the boy who liked her, because the boy was college-bound and driven. He also said in court that “Jane Doe 2” told police that Bull was always joking around, and that the defendant never said anything inappropriate to her.
The prosecutor said investigators questioned three other swimmers who were on the team during Bull’s time as coach. Reicks said those team members told investigators that Bull made similar suggestive comments, and all three of them quit the team.
Testimony in the trial was expected to continue through the end of this week. Reicks was prepared to call six additional witnesses to testify, when the defendant decided to plead to the charges, according to the District Attorney’s Office.