Basketball coach sent to prison for sexually assaulting two players.

February 25, 2019

Russell Swihart with attorney Mark Miller

Basketball coach sent to prison for sexually assaulting two players.

#OceanaCountyCrime

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — A 36-year-old former high school basketball coach received a three to 15 year prison term Monday, Feb. 25, in 27th Circuit Court for sexually assaulting two female players who were 13 years old at the time.

Russell Douglas Swihart, of 5755 N. 192nd Ave., Walkerville pleaded “no contest” to third-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) last December.

Swihart was the boys JV basketball coach at Walkerville High School and assisted with the JV girls basketball team.

The girls spoke in front of a packed courtroom Monday while tightly holding each other’s hand, demonstrating their support for each other. The girls’ mothers and several other people sat in the audience in support of the victims.

One of the victims said she felt like “the world was crashing down” on her. She said she became so distraught that she had to sleep in her parents’ bedroom at night.

Both girls said they had to go to counseling as a result of the sexual assaults. They also said Swihart lied to them, trying to destroy their friendship. “I almost lost my best friend,” one of the girls said. “You also almost made me lose my best friend because of your lies,” the other girl said.

“People call me a slut and a whore all because of what you did,” one of the victims said.

“What you did to me made me feel horrible about myself,” one of the girls said. “You took advantage of me – you just wanted someone to mess around with.”

“I have sleeping problems, anxiety and depression. I can’t be around men alone. I’m scared because of you. You really impacted my life and not in a good way. You ruined my self esteem. I feel like everyone is judging me. People still call us names to this day. It has affected my social life. I can barely talk to people becasue I have anxiety. I have no idea who I am anymore. I hope that you regret doing this.”

Swihart was initially charged with five felony counts of CSC stemming from the sexual assaults, including first-degree CSC, second-degree CSC, two counts of accosting children for immoral purposes and child sexually-abusive activity. The five counts were dismissed when he pleaded to third-degree CSC.

The former coach, who was on house arrest from the time of his conviction until his sentencing date, appeared in court with his attorney Mark Miller.

He was arrested June 25 following a months-long investigation by the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office that involved interviewing several witnesses.

When asked by Judge Robert Springstead if he wanted to say anything, Swihart declined commenting in court.

Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon said he consulted with the victims and their families, and they were in agreement with the plea deal. The victims were spared from having to testify at trial.

Judge Springstead exceeded the 21-35 month sentencing guidelines for the minimum term, and Bizon requested the 36-month minimum. “This case was a negotiated settlement based on the victims’ wishes and their approval,” Bizon said.

After Swihart’s arrest, school officials ordered him to not be on school property.

The incidents occurred in Crystal Township during a time period of Dec. 1, 2017 to March 27, 2018, said Springstead. Swihart engaged in oral sex with the victims, he said.

Bizon said Swihart will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He received credit for one day served in jail.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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