Ex-coach gets probation in attempted sex assault

Former Central teacher must also register as sex offender for felony

Former Central High School girls basketball coach and business teacher Matthew Lindholm was sentenced Monday to five years intensive probation after previously pleading guilty to a felony charge of attempted sexual assault of a student during the 2007 school year. He must also register as a sex offender.

Lindholm, 33, confessed to kissing and fondling a 14-year-old female student who played basketball.

Family members and friends of the victim, along with members of Lindholm’s family, appeared at Monday’s emotional hearing.

The victim’s mother told Mesa County District Judge Richard Gurley that Lindholm’s actions severed ties between her and the teenager, and also damaged the teen’s relationships with her friends and others on the basketball team.

“I always wanted to believe children are safe,” the victim’s mother said. “(She) was taken advantage of.

He manipulated her into thinking her life should revolve around him. Mr. Lindholm stole these years away from (her) and me.”

The victim’s family members said the teen was subjected to ridicule and harassment from parents and other students this year after news of the student and teacher relationship emerged.

Lindholm was arrested last February on allegations he repeatedly fondled and kissed the girl in his school office during incidents between January 2007 and February 2008. Investigators also uncovered e-mails, text messages and gifts showing the longtime Central High varsity girls basketball coach’s romantic feelings for the student. Lindholm, who also taught business at the school, resigned from the district Feb. 11, citing family issues.

Lindholm’s attorneys, Michelle Devlin and Andrew Nolan, said their client has not violated any of the terms associated with his wearing of a global positioning system monitor for nearly the past eight months.

Lindholm, who confessed to the allegations and cooperated with police, has also started the process to enter sex offender treatment and has undergone a test that determined he has a low chance of re-offending.

Also, an investigation into the allegations of misconduct with the student did not reveal that any other students were victimized by Lindholm, his attorneys argued. Lindholm has no prior criminal history and attorneys produced more than 50 letters written on behalf of his good character, although those statements were not included in the record.

Lindholm apologized to the victim, the school and the community for his “poor decisions.”

The punishment, however, did not fit the crime, according to statements from the victim, her mother, father and stepfather, who wanted Lindholm to spend some time in jail.

“You changed me and held me back from every experience I could have had that year,” a counselor for the girl read in a statement. “You wanted me to believe I was the answer to all your problems. You did a good job making me believe I needed support from you. You changed me for that year, but you will never control me again.”

Judge Gurley told Lindholm he knew what he was doing was wrong, something made worse because Lindholm was a coach.

“Coaches walk on water to kids,” he said. “Kids who are under their supervision do what they ask them to.”

Gurley said he was thankful Lindholm was caught in time.

During an interview at the Western Slope Center for Children, the girl described 10 instances of being intimate and alone with Lindholm in his coach’s office. The girl said she and Lindholm talked about, but never had, sex, the affidavit said.

“Fortunately this was not a case where the perpetrator went further,” Gurley said. “I fear after reading the affidavit this could have gone much further.”


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