Coach accused of fondling Lordstown athletes pleads guilty

WARREN — A former volleyball and assistant girls basketball coach at Lordstown High School pleaded guilty Wednesday to a bill of information charging him in the fondling of two 13-year-old female students who were on his volleyball team last school year.

Richard E. Knox, 45, Virginia Drive, Warren, appeared before Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge W. Wyatt McKay, who set bond at $7,500 and forbid Knox from attending any school events or being near any student. Jail records show Knox posted bond and was released at 12:42 p.m. Wednesday.

Knox’s guilty plea to two counts each of importuning, pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor and gross sexual imposition, all felonies, now labels him a Tier 2 sexual offender, court records show. According to Ohio law, Knox must register his address with the sheriff’s department every six months for 25 years.

Sentencing will be scheduled by McKay after Knox undergoes a background investigation conducted by the Trumbull County Adult Probation Department. Knox faces a potential maximum sentence of 11 years in prison.

Lordstown police Detective Chris Bordonaro said Knox has been the subject of an investigation that started in March. Bordonaro said the investigation was triggered by a complaint from one of the player’s parents. Bordonaro said the player received a series of inappropriate text messages from the coach.

According to Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Gabe Wildman, Knox is accused of fondling two volleyball players over their clothing.

“It is very disturbing that someone in a position of trust would take advantage of this situation,” Bordonaro said.

In a news release issued Wednesday by Lordstown Schools Superintendent Terry Armstrong, the school administration was made aware of the Knox investigation May 5.

“The district made certain that the Ohio Department of Education Office of Professional Conduct, as this former coach had a pupil activity permit issued through the ODE, was contacted right away,” Armstrong stated.

Armstrong noted the district recently added training for staff concerning appropriate communication and boundaries with students and student athletes.

Lordstown Schools Treasurer Mark Fererra confirmed Knox is not a teacher and was given a supplemental contract to coach eighth-grade volleyball and be an assistant varsity girls basketball coach for the 2016-17 school year. Fererra said Knox is no longer coaching at Lordstown.

Wildman said Knox was not a teacher, but is employed by General Motors.