ST. CHARLES, Ill. (STMW) – A jury Wednesday night found a former junior high school teacher in west suburban Aurora and wrestling coach guilty of sexually abusing a middle school student.
The jury began deliberations at 6:10 p.m. after three days of testimony. Robert Steck, 41, formerly of Aurora, was convicted of sexual exploitation of a child, indecent exploitation of a child and six of 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault. He faces up to seven years in prison.
He was convicted of molesting a seventh-grade boy from Aug. 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006, while Steck was a teacher at Cowherd Middle School, prosecutors said.
A relative of the boy called police when she saw Steck, who taught eighth-grade science and coached basketball, football and wrestling, in a locked room with the child, prosecutors said.
On Tuesday, Steck took the stand and repeatedly denied that he had ever touched the boy in his home or had private, naked weigh-ins in a classroom. The head wrestling coach testified he had assigned Steck to mentor the boy, who had been acting out and was in danger of being kicked off the team. The boy had been kicked out of the house by his family, and Steck said he was helping him.
“I wanted him to develop as a wrestler and as a person and human being,” Steck said. “I was a teacher and role model.”
But prosecutors questioned Steck’s motives and actions. For instance, although he had no experience wrestling, he signed up to be an assistant coach. And why did he take the boy out for ice cream if he was so concerned about the boy being the correct weight for wrestling? Assistant State’s Attorney Dave Belshan called Steck “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Defense attorney Kathleen Colton attacked the credibility of the boy’s story. The boy, who is not being named because of his age, was convicted of sexually abusing a young family member before he met Steck. He has since been charged with burglarizing a building with his uncles. The boy received some consideration on his charges in exchange for his testimony.
Colton said the boy made make up stories about Steck to cast himself as a victim.
“If he had no respect for the law, why would he have any respect for the truth?” Colton said.
Steck also is charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse and misdemeanor sexual exploitation of a 10-year-old boy in 2002 and 2003. The boy, now 18, testified at Steck’s trial in an attempt to show a pattern of behavior. That case is pending.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)