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High school tennis coach charged with child abuse after conflict

A brown building with yellow and red cyclist sculptures outside
Park City Municipal Corporation
The conflict between coach and player occurred at the MARC in Park City.

A Park City High School tennis coach has been charged with felony child abuse related to a recent altercation at the MARC.

The Summit County Attorney’s Office announced Friday it’s charged high school tennis coach Lani Wilcox with one count of aggravated child abuse, which is a third-degree felony.

The charge stems from an incident that happened at the MARC during a tennis practice on August 29. According to the charging documents, Wilcox and a student player on the tennis team got into an argument about the player’s position on the team. The argument escalated and the student allegedly slapped Wilcox in the face.

After that, Wilcox allegedly grabbed the student by the neck and put her in a choke hold, and then took her cell phone.

Wilcox faces a separate charge, a misdemeanor, over taking the cell phone. Utah law prohibits people from taking communication devices from someone who is trying to summon emergency aid. The county attorney’s charges allege that Wilcox grabbed the student’s phone when the student said she was going to call police.

The Park City School District said in a statement that it took the matter seriously and was working with authorities on the case. The district has placed Wilcox on administrative leave.

Wilcox’s lawyer is Clayton Simms. He told KPCW that Wilcox has coached thousands of students without incident over decades, and her actions were self-defense.

"“We are the victims," he said. "We've been attacked and the assistant coach was attacked. We plan on going to trial and a jury will see that she acted in self defense; she acted in defense of others. She was trying to protect other tennis players and calm someone down who was very upset about a lack of playing time and upset about their position on the tennis team."

 Tennis coach Lani Wilcox after the altercation with a player on the team.
Courtesy of Lani Wilcox
Tennis coach Lani Wilcox after the altercation with a player on the team.

Earlier this week, Wilcox’s supporters launched a Go Fund Me campaign to help offset her legal expenses. It sought to raise $10,000; as of Friday afternoon it had raised just under $9,000.

The felony charge carries a potential penalty of a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Wilcox has not been arrested, but has been summoned to appear in court; a date for that hasn’t been set yet.

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