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5 teens testify against ex-Detroit basketball coach

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — One by one, a group of teenage boys took the stand Friday to describe alleged sexual encounters with their former middle school basketball coach, who faces up to 20 years in prison on more than a dozen charges.

Five boys testified Friday, each recounting details of alleged assaults this year in Antoine Lewis Jones’ car, his Detroit home, and even at a school basketball game. The boys, ages 13 to 15, alleged they were persuaded to exchange inappropriate messages and videos. One said he was touched around one dozen times.

Jones, 28, is charged with one count sexually abusive act with a child; four counts of accosting or soliciting a minor for immoral purposes; four counts of using a computer to commit a crime; eight counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct; and one count of aggravated indecent exposure.

One count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct was dismissed by 36th District Judge Shannon Holmes at the beginning of Friday’s preliminary examination. Other charges were amended.

In calling for the case to be bound over for trial, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Jennifer Tink emphasized Jones’ position of authority during the alleged incidents, referring to one witness in particular during her argument.

“This was a basketball coach, an employee of the school, who used his access to (the witness) to gain access to him.”

Holmes agreed.

“I’m satisfied that the people have in fact met their burden as to all of the counts,” she said. “I’m binding the defendant over as charged.”

Jones’ $1 million cash bond was continued and he remained jailed Friday. He is due back in court April 22 and is on unpaid administrative leave from Detroit Public Schools, pending the outcome of the trial.

Jones coached basketball at Detroit’s A.L. Holmes Elementary-Middle School, on the city’s east side. The alleged victims, who were on the team, are not being identified due to their ages.

The first witness, a 14-year-old wearing a black Red Wings hoodie, testified he met Jones during recess on his first day of school last fall.

“He was driving me home from the school,” the boy testified about the first alleged inappropriate encounter with his coach, which he said occurred sometime this year. “He touched me, in my area.”

The boy also sent nude pictures to his coach using the messaging app Kik, he testified. The coach replied with “over 20” pictures of himself.

“He asked me and begged me to do it,” the boy said of why he sent the pictures.

Those messages have since been deleted, but at least one of the alleged victims saved his own correspondences, the teen said. The boy testified he also witnessed his coach have inappropriate contact with other teens.

A woman in the courtroom wiped away tears as the boy testified.

Another 14-year-old boy testified second, wearing a gray hoodie and red pants. The teen told the court he often hung out at the coach’s house, playing video games. He has known the defendant since fifth grade, he said.

It was at Jones’ Detroit home where the boy was touched “more than five times,” according to the teen’s testimony. He also sent inappropriate pictures and videos, at the coach’s request.

A third witness, 15, appeared to have been the catalyst of the charges against Jones. He said he exchanged inappropriate messages at the coach’s request. Those messages, sent via Kik, were found by his mother, who immediately contacted police. The witness also testified about an alleged incident inside the coach’s car.

Jones sat quietly during testimony, looking straight ahead or speaking quietly with his attorney.

A fourth witness, also 15 years old, described similar situations.

The hearing wrapped with testimony from Jones’ youngest alleged victim, a 13-year-old who claimed he was assaulted around 12 times.

“It was different places,” he said. “The school, a basketball game, the car.”

The boy also witnessed his coach inappropriately touching three other boys, he said.

The testimony came after a brief courtroom dispute prompted by defense attorney Lillian Diallo’s request that media not photograph Jones during the proceedings. Holmes appeared poised to grant the request, until media gathered in the courtroom objected.

Holmes ultimately allowed media to photograph Jones, but ordered the minor victims not be identified.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office initially said there were six complainants in the case, but five alleged victims were tied to the current charges.

When charges were filed, Jones immediately was removed from the school and instructed to have no interaction with students, district spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said last month. Further investigation led to the man being placed on unpaid administrative leave.

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