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Ex-athletic trainer gets 1 year for sex with student

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Melinda Rober, appearing with her attorney Stephen Hartman, last month, was sentenced Monday to prison in a high school sex case.

THE BLADE
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Saying parents have a right to expect that the adults their children interact with at school will protect them, not victimize them, a Lucas County judge sent to prison a former high school athletic trainer who admitted having sex with a student.

Melinda Rober, 36, of 2552 106th St. was sentenced to a year in prison. She pleaded no contest and was found guilty June 5 of two felony counts of sexual battery for engaging in oral sex with a 17-year-old boy in the school’s football locker room on two occasions between December, 2011, and May 31, 2012.

She also admitted having intercourse with the same young man at his home in Oregon between Sept. 1, 2012, and Oct. 31, 2012.

“No parent should drop a student off at a school and wonder what might happen with anybody who is responsible for watching that time frame — not anyone,” Common Pleas Judge Gary Cook said before imposing the sentence.

He also classified Rober as a sex offender who must register her address with the sheriff of the county where she lives every 90 days for the rest of her life.

The victim in the case told the court that so many jokes were made about him during his senior year of high school that he would get angry and have to walk away.

He said he initially feared he was ruining Rober’s life, “but I also thought I was the only kid who had sexual relations with Mindy and maybe she had just made a mistake.”

Later, he said he talked to others who said they’d done things with Rober too.

“The more people I talked to the more I found out that Mindy had told us all the same story about her and her husband were only together for the kids and that they don’t even talk,” he said. “That’s when I realized how I was manipulated and used to her advantage. ... Even though I might have acted like I knew what I was doing, I didn’t, and she did.”

A tearful Rober apologized to the victim and his family, to the Oregon community and the Clay school district where she was employed for nearly 12 years. She also thanked her husband for standing by her.

“I regret that I made a poor decision. I was the adult in the situation, and I should have known better,” she said.

Defense attorney Stephen Hartman asked the court to place Rober on community control saying she was not a danger to the community, that she would never work in a school again, and would never work as an athletic trainer again.

He said she was going through a number of personal crises and was “profoundly depressed” when she started acting out sexually.

She knew what she did was wrong, he said, but she did not know it was illegal.

Judge Cook rejected his plea for probation and also denied a request to postpone the imposition of her sentence pending an appeal.

Afterward, Mr. Hartman said he was “tremendously disappointed” with the sentence, saying he intended to appeal her conviction “based on the fact that the [sexual battery] statute is unconstitutional. I think the language of the statute is so vague it doesn’t meet the standards for constitutionality.”

Judge Cook said Mr. Hartman could ask Ohio’s 6th District Court of Appeals to set a bond that would allow his client to get out of prison while her appeal is heard, but he said he believed Rober fit the description of “a person in authority” over students as the law requires.

“For me, for purposes of what I have to do here with sentencing, it’s extremely clear,” the judge told Rober. “You fit right into that position.”

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

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