John Bedford, right, Woodmore High School s wrestling coach, appears in court with his attorney.
Simmons / Blade Enlarge
PORT CLINTON - Accused of offering to pay teenage girls at Woodmore High School for sex, the school s varsity boys wrestling coach pleaded not guilty yesterday to a charge of compelling prostitution.
John O. Bedford, 43, of Woodville did not speak during his arraignment before Judge Frederick Hany of Ottawa County Municipal Court. Bond of $20,000 was maintained for Mr. Bedford, who was arrested last week, but Judge Hany granted a request to let the defendant put up his home as security.
According to court records, Mr. Bedford s bond requires that he not have contact with eight female students at Woodmore or their families. As of last night, Mr. Bedford remained in the Ottawa County jail.
Mr. Bedford, who has been the school s varsity wrestling coach for 16 years, was suspended from the post Jan. 14 after Woodmore officials became aware of the allegations against him, according to police reports. He works as a millwright and is not a teacher at the school, said Jerome Phillips, his attorney.
Mr. Phillips said his client denies the charge against him.
“He s clearly upset about the situation,” the attorney said. “He s never been accused of anything in his life.”
According to records filed with the Ottawa County prosecutor s office, eight female students at Woodmore High have accused Mr. Bedford of making sexual comments to them and offering them hundreds of dollars for sex. None of the girls has alleged that any sexual activity or improper touching occurred.
Greg McGory, an assistant Ottawa County prosecutor, said in court that authorities plan to ask the county grand jury to indict Mr. Bedford on additional charges today or tomorrow.
One of the students, who is 16, told Elmore police that she was helping Mr. Bedford set up for a wrestling fund-raiser at a Woodville baseball diamond in July, when the wrestling coach asked her if she wanted to come home with him.
A week later, Mr. Bedford left a message at her home asking her to come to the high school and help him with some jackets. When she arrived, he called her up to a loft above the gymnasium, pulled out $300, and asked her if she had changed her mind, the report states.
When she said no, the coach told her, “What s it gonna take?” according to the report.
Another 16-year-old student told authorities that Mr. Bedford had offered cash to her more than 10 times but never said exactly what he wanted in return.
The girl said the wrestling coach once showed her a pornographic videotape in an office at the school and asked her at a wrestling tournament in Cincinnati last month to get drunk with him. In another incident, he asked the girl to take a shower at school and let him watch, the girl told authorities.
A third student, also 16, said Mr. Bedford began making sexual comments to her in November, and once asked her to enter an office with him. He then locked the door, took three videotapes from a black bag, and put one of the tapes into a video player, the girl told police.
Mr. Bedford played the tape, which she described as “an adult video,” for three to four minutes, the girl said. He then pulled condoms from the same bag, showed them to her, and told her she had nothing to worry about, the student told authorities.
According to an affidavit filed in the municipal court by Elmore police Sgt. Roy Elsea, high school Principal Hobart Johnson retrieved a bag matching the description given by the student from Mr. Bedford s office last week and held it for police.
In a statement to police, she said Mr. Bedford “told me he would pay me $100 to have sex with him.”
In a deposition, the girl told authorities that Mr. Bedford s comments took an emotional toll on her.
The deposition says the student “stated that she felt sick at school, could not concentrate on her sports or studies, lost her appetite, and was always unhappy and afraid.”
Earlier this month, the girl approached another coach at the school and told her about the incidents, the deposition states. The coach encouraged the girl to tell her parents.
Mr. Bedford is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 3:15 p.m. Feb. 9 in Ottawa County Municipal Court.
If convicted of the compelling prostitution charge, a third-degree felony, he could be sentenced to as much as five years in prison.