Ex-Cottage Grove coach had sex 
but cleared of charges

Star Tribune

Date: 07/06/10


A former girls' hockey coach at Park of 
Cottage Grove High School was acquitted 
Tuesday on charges that he had illicit sex at 
his former Woodbury home with two 16-
year-old players he had coached the 
previous season.

Eric P. Darwitz, 32, was charged with two 
counts of third-degree criminal sexual 
conduct by a person of authority stemming 
from a night of alcohol-stoked partying in 
August 2006. A boyfriend of one of the girls, 
who each testified during a three-day trial 
last week, alerted authorities in early 2009, 
leading to the charges.

The jury of seven men and five women began 
deliberations Friday, then recessed over the 
holiday weekend before returning with the 
not guilty verdict.

"Obviously, I'm very pleased," Darwitz said 
after the verdict and a long weekend of 
suspense. "It's been a long 14-, 15-month 
process, so it's good to have it finally done."

In arguments last week, both defense 
attorney Earl Gray and prosecutor Mike 
Hutchinson, assistant Washington County 
attorney, acknowledged that Darwitz had sex 
with the girls. The case hinged on whether 
Darwitz was a person in authority over a 
minor as defined by state law.

In Minnesota, 16 is the age of consent for 
consensual sex in most circumstances, but 
people in positions of authority over minors 
-- including coaches, teachers and clergy -- 
are held to a stricter legal standard. Another 
man at the party was not charged, 
prosecutors said, because unlike Darwitz, he 
hadn't been in a position of authority over 
the girls.

Jurors interrupted their deliberations twice 
to seek clarification from Washington County 
District Judge B. William Ekstrum, looking for 
a clearer definition of "person in authority" as 
defined by the law and clarity on what 
constitutes "reasonable doubt."

Darwitz resigned in the summer of 2006 
from his coaching job at Park, his alma mater, to accept a job at Shattuck-St. Mary's 
School in Faribault, Minn.

Darwitz was placed on administrative leave 
from Shattuck after being charged. He 
subsequently resigned.

Gray said Darwitz told his Park team 
members in July 2006 that he was resigning 
from his job and said that the girls heard and 
understood that announcement.

He argued that meant Darwitz was no longer 
a legally defined person in authority.

But Hutchinson pointed out that Darwitz 
resigned from Park on Aug. 9 by means of an e
-mail to the school's athletic director, and 
the sex occurred only two days later. In the 
girls' eyes, that authority role had not 
changed, he argued.

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