Ex-softball coach gets year for rape of player

Judge chides him, team for treatment of victim in case




An angry judge sentenced a former Olympia-area softball coach to one year in prison for raping a 15-year-old girl on his team during a tournament in the summer of 2011 in Clark County.

Before she handed down her sentence, Clark County Superior Court Judge Diane Woolard rebuked Dennis L. Wells and members of his softball team, Capitol Lady Outlaws, who attended Friday’s hearing. A deputy prosecutor had told the judge the victim was kicked off the team after reporting the sexual assault.

“I’m appalled. I see members of the Lady Outlaws here. I want you to know it’s unforgiveable,” Woolard said. “Do you understand what happened at Penn State? Do you understand why (former assistant football coach Jerry) Mr. Sandusky went to prison?”

Woolard went on to call the handling of reported sex abuse a re-victimization. “I’m appalled and it’s absolutely unforgiveable,” she said.

The judge added that she approved the plea bargain because it avoided the 15-year-old and her sister — who was also sexually abused by Wells in King County — from having to testify at trial. The judge said testifying at trial can often be another re-victimization.

The 40-year-old Lacey man pleaded guilty Sept. 6 to third-degree rape of a child, and faced a standard sentencing range of 12 to 14 months in prison. Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Smith and defense attorney Brad Meryhew both asked the judge to sentence Wells to one year and three years’ probation. The judge granted the request.

Wells was in Clark County with the Capitol Lady Outlaws for a tournament when the incident occurred on July 8, 2011.

According to court documents, the girl was staying with Wells in an RV when, she said, she woke to Wells sexually touching her. She later told investigators she had tried to roll away from Wells, but “he kept grabbing her arms and pushing her back toward him,” according to an affidavit of a court summons.

When the girl arrived back home in the Olympia area, she told her mother and sister about the event. The girl’s younger sister then told her that Wells had made sexual attempts toward her while on a softball trip in King County, according to court documents.

Wells pleaded guilty in August in King County Superior Court to communicating with a minor for immoral purposes in connection with that case.

Wells told the judge on Friday he was sorry for the crime.

Woolard asked if he was sorry for what he did or sorry he got caught.

“For what I did,” he replied.

Woolard then decried him and the softball team for the incident.

Lori Braniff, general manager for the Capitol Outlaws, said in an earlier interview that the two sisters were removed from the team as seasons were winding down for both girls. The organization said it was appropriate “to remove all innocent parties to focus on the other players.”

Braniff also said Wells had a personal relationship with the girls’ mother, and the 15-year-old had chosen to stay with Wells in the RV, even though there was a team room.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.