NEW PHILADELPHIA — A former Newcomerstown Middle School girls basketball coach pleaded guilty Tuesday to three charges resulting from a relationship he had with a teenage girl he formerly coached.
Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Judge Elizabeth Lehigh Thomakos found Mario E. Lovrinic, 30, guilty of the charges, which had been reduced from the seven on which he was indicted.
He is scheduled to be sentenced June 6 for one count of importuning, intimidating the victim and unlawful restraint.
Lovrinic was originally indicted on charges of sexual imposition, for having sexual contact with the victim; two counts of importuning, alleging that he asked a child who was between the ages of 13 and 15 to engage in sexual conduct; disseminating matter harmful to juveniles; and intimidating, assaulting and abducting the victim.
At the prosecutor’s request, four charges were dropped and a fifth was reduced from abduction, a felony, to unlawful restraint, a misdemeanor.
"The plea represents what we believe to be an accurate representation of the events," said Amanda Miller, assistant county prosecutor.
She said the victim was a willing participant in the relationship, as much as she could be, given the age difference between her and Lovrinic.
"The juvenile had been a student whom he had coached in the past," Miller said. "We don’t have any evidence to suggest that this behavior began while he was coaching for a school district."
She said about a year elapsed between the time Lovrinic coached the victim and when he started preparing her for the relationship.
The prosecutor’s recommended sentence includes these elements:
• Successful completion of the sex-offender program at the Eastern Ohio Correction Center in Wintersville prior to release into the community;
• Thirty days in jail for unlawful restraint;
• Five years of probation;
• For importuning, 12 months in prison, which would not be served unless probation terms were violated;
• For intimidating the victim, 18 months in prison, which would not be served unless probation terms were violated;
• Prison terms to be consecutive, if served;
• No contact with the victim or her family; and
• Annual registration as a sex offender for 15 years.
Lovrinic has been held in the Tuscarawas County jail since Feb. 15, when his bail was set at $200,000.
He did not speak at Tuesday’s change-of-plea hearing.
His defense attorney is Nicole Stephan, assistant chief Tuscarawas County public defender. She had no comment about his plea, except to tell the judge that the agreement was correctly presented in court by Miller.
The potential penalties for intimidation are a prison term of nine to 36 months and a $10,000 fine. Importuning is punishable by six to 12 months in prison and a $3,000 fine. Unlawful restraint is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
The judge is not required to follow the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation. The Community Corrections Program is to prepare a report about Lovrinic before the sentencing hearing.
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