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Park City High School tennis coach pleads not guilty to felony child abuse Tuesday

 Lani Wilcox and defense attorney Clayton Simms in court Tuesday, Oct. 25 for preliminary hearing
Kimberly Flores
Lani Wilcox and defense attorney Clayton Simms in court Tuesday, Oct. 25 for her preliminary hearing.

A justification hearing has been set for January 3rd.

A group of about 30 people showed up at the Summit County District Court Tuesday morning to show their support for Park City High School tennis coach Lani Wilcox.

Wilcox is charged with one count of aggravated child abuse, a third degree felony, and one count of interrupting an emergency phone call, a class B misdemeanor, following an altercation with a student tennis player on August 29th.

According to the charges, Wilcox and the student athlete got into an argument about the player’s position on the tennis team. The argument escalated and the student allegedly slapped Wilcox in the face.

Wilcox is charged with third degree aggravated child abuse because the student alleges Wilcox put her in a chokehold and she could not breathe.

Surveillance video played in court during the preliminary hearing Tuesday showed the scuffle. It was difficult to make out the alleged first slap or the chokehold, but did show Wilcox and the student wrestle to the ground. When the two get off the ground, the student can then be seen kicking an assistant coach.

Wilcox’s defense attorney Clayton Simms questioned the only witness to testify Tuesday. Park City Police Officer Leslie Welker testified that the student admitted to hitting Wilcox first.

“The juvenile stated that she burst and slapped her coach?” asked Simms.

“Yes,” answered Officer Welker.

“So the juvenile in this case, admitted that she hit her coach first?” asked Simms again.

“Yes,” said Officer Welker.

Simms then asked the officer why she only interviewed three people; Wilcox, the assistant coach and the student, and not the other students who witnessed the event.

“We were trying to be careful interviewing juveniles without their parents’ consent,” said Officer Welker. “We realized that we could get the names of the juveniles later. But at that point, the case was forwarded to Summit County and turned over to them.”

After the hearing, Simms spoke with KPCW and explained his line of questioning.

“What you need is independent witnesses. There were at least 24 witnesses there. And they didn't get those statements,” said Simms. “There were witnesses there. They didn't capture their names and information. So you see that that's how we ended up here. We ended up here because the police did not investigate. They didn't interview people, they didn't understand what happened.”

The prosecuting attorney declined to comment for this report.

Judge Richard Mrazik told the courtroom that even without video, the student’s allegations were enough to find probable cause for the charges against Wilcox.

Wilcox pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Her attorneys filed for a justification hearing. If the court finds that Wilcox acted in self-defense or defense of others the case could be dismissed before trial.

The justification hearing has been set for January 3rd.