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Published: Friday, 6/6/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Former trainer at Clay enters plea deal on sex charge

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Defense attorney Stephen Hartman talks with his client, Melinda Rober, in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, where she pleaded no contest to two counts of sexual battery stemming from her employment as an athletic trainer at Clay High School. Defense attorney Stephen Hartman talks with his client, Melinda Rober, in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, where she pleaded no contest to two counts of sexual battery stemming from her employment as an athletic trainer at Clay High School.
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A former Clay High School athletic trainer who had sex with a 17-year-old student in the locker room and at his home faces up to 10 years in prison.

Melinda Rober, 36, of 2552 106th St., pleaded no contest Thursday to two counts of sexual battery. She had been slated to go to trial Monday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on three counts of sexual battery but entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors that calls for the dismissal of the third count — an allegation that she engaged in sexual conduct with a 16-year-old Clay student — at the time of sentencing.

Judge Gary Cook found her guilty and scheduled sentencing for June 19.

Rober, who had worked at the high school in Oregon through a contract with her former employer, ProMedica, said little and showed no emotion as Jennifer Lambdin, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, told the court the facts of the case.

Ms. Lambdin said Rober and a 17-year-old boy engaged in oral sex in the school’s football locker room on two occasions between December, 2011, and May 31, 2012. Between Sept. 1, 2012, and Oct. 31, 2012, Rober had intercourse with the same young man at his home in Oregon, she said.

Defense attorney Stephen Hartman said after the hearing that the relationship had been consensual and that the victim in the case was of the age of consent at the time. What made it criminal, prosecutors alleged, was that Rober was in a position of authority at the school when the offenses occurred, something Mr. Hartman had argued to the court was not true.

In November, he sought to have the charges dismissed, contending that as an athletic trainer, she was not “a person in authority” as the sexual battery law requires. Judge Cook denied the motion, saying an athletic trainer “could reasonably” be understood to be a person in authority because she would have the power to give orders and make decisions about students.

Ms. Lambdin told the court Rober had been an athletic trainer for nearly 10 years at Clay where she taught and supervised student trainers, assessed injured athletes and informed coaches whether students could continue playing, and provided physical therapy and rehab to athletes.

Mr. Hartman said he intends to appeal the case to contest the language of the sexual battery law, which he believes is poorly written, ambiguous, and potentially unconstitutional. Still, he said, his client knows what she did was wrong.

“She is remorseful to an incredible degree and has been ever since this happened,” he said. “She made a mistake, and she knows it. She’s going to have to live with the consequences of that for the rest of her life regardless of what happens in the courtroom.”

Four civil suits have been filed against Rober, school officials, and ProMedica alleging sexual abuse by other former Clay students.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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