Former coach admits to sexual assault of players

CHARLESTON, Ill. (WAND) - A man who sexually assaulted three minors will spend decades in prison. 

Barry Wolfe assaulted the athletes, who were either at or under the age of 17, in recent years. He pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault on June 26. 

Wolfe will spend 60 years in prison, with each count involving a 15-year sentence, under the sentence issued by Coles County Judge Brien O’Brien. 

During a day-long sentencing hearing, three former athletes from the Central Illinois Storm testified to sexual abuse, attempts at blackmail and ongoing texts from Wolfe. Two of the players said they attended college on basketball scholarships in other states to be distant from Wolfe. 

One former player said Wolfe abused her while she was on his team. She said she called police at her out-of-state college after Wolfe emailed her saying he planned to come to her college and watch her play basketball there.

“I didn’t want to see him. I knew something would happen,” she said, explaining that, in the past, Wolfe would attend her high school basketball games and would sexually abuse her afterward.

Another former player said Wolfe began abusing her around age 15 or 16 while she played on his team.

“He said he had taken video of me … in a hotel room at a tournament,” she said.

That player went on to say Wolfe showed up to her home when she was home alone. She said that, while she attended college on a basketball scholarship, Wolfe sent her text messages that read “miss hanging out with you” and calling her a “friggin’ betrayer.” In Fall 2017, she reported receiving a photo of a vagina by mail with no return address. A Mattoon Police investigator testified that photo was consistent with one investigators found on Wolfe’s phone.

Yet another former player said Wolfe first asked her for a kiss at age 14. She said his abuse led her to attend a college far from home.

“I wanted to get as far away from Barry as I could,” she said.

Prosecutors played part of a video from an initial police interview with Wolfe. In it, Wolfe admits to inappropriate contact with four former players. At one point in the video, Wolfe said "my deal with these girls isn't about sex... it's about giving back," referring to text message exchanges with the players. 

In a pre-written victim impact statement, one former player said she wondered why no one knew about Wolfe’s abuse before.

“It was often talked about … nobody did anything,” she said. “Each person has become a victim of his manipulation.

In the recorded police interview, then-Mattoon Police Chief Jeff Branson told Wolfe he had been shown inappropriate text messages from Wolfe to another player two years before in an unofficial capacity, adding that the player’s family chose to address the matter on their own.

In his allocution, Wolfe spoke at length about his basketball program, about scholarships awarded to his former athletes, adding that others first approached him about coaching.

“My goal has always been to watch kids be successful,” Wolfe said. “I knew that I could help kids.”

In his statement, Wolfe spoke directly to his family and athletes with whom he worked. He also spoke to the victims.

“I can’t tell you how sorry I am … not only for my actions, but for putting your families through this,” Wolfe said. “I’ve thought of and prayed for your families daily.”

After the hearing, State’s Attorney Brian Bower praised the victims for coming forward.

“Those brave young women that came forward, it’s a bravery and a courage that is extraordinary,” Bower said.