MARTINEZ — A former youth coach with the Lamorinda Soccer Club was convicted of three felonies Monday for arranging to meet with an undercover cop who was posing as a 14-year-old girl on an online dating app, prosecutors said.
Alejandro Sanchez, 29, now faces a maximum of four years in state prison and a lifetime of sex offender registration. The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon and returned the three guilty verdicts Monday, convicting Sanchez of contact with a minor for a sexual offense, meeting a minor for lewd purposes, and an attempted lewd act upon a child.
During his trial last week, Sanchez admitted to engaging in sexual chats with the purported teen girl, whom he reached out to on the dating app Skout. This included chats about what sex acts they would do when they met up, calling her a “sexy princess,” discussions about her genitals, and Sanchez at one point remarking his surprise that he was attracted to a younger girl.
Despite these admissions, Sanchez took the stand and testified that he knew the whole time the person he was chatting with was not a 14-year-old girl. He assumed it was a “soccer mom” attempting to set him up, he testified, and he “played along” in order to get to the bottom of the situation.
“The intention was to play the game just to keep the conversation going,” Sanchez testified last week.
Sanchez believed this, he testified, because he saw two other coaches at the club be accused of unfounded sexual misconduct. He said that after arranging the meetup, his plan was to take his “evidence” to his boss and ask for help figuring out which parent was attempting to smear him.
But on the day he was arrested and interviewed by police, Sanchez mentioned none of this. Instead, he told District Attorney inspector Darryl Holcombe that he wanted to apologize.
“The fact that she tried to talk to me about sexual stuff, I got into it and I shouldn’t have,” Sanchez told Holcombe during the recorded police interview, which was played to the jury.
One key defense assertion was that Sanchez knew he wasn’t really speaking to a teen girl, because when he searched for her phone number online, a different teen’s Twitter profile came up. He presented a screenshot of the Twitter account in court, claiming it was the same account he’d found days before his January 2019.
But the claim fell apart under cross-examination by deputy district attorney Jessica Murad.
“Would it surprise you, sir, that we didn’t have permission to use that photo until February 2020?” Murad asked Sanchez.
Sanchez insisted it was the same photo, but couldn’t explain the discrepancy.
Sanchez was arrested in January 2019, after he showed up to Hidden Lakes Park, on the Pleasant Hill/Martinez border, where he’d arranged to meet the purported girl. At the time of his arrest, Sanchez taught soccer students aged 9-18 at the Lamorinda Soccer Club, a popular sports instructional organization that participates in tournaments throughout California and beyond.
After his arrest, the club cut ties with Sanchez and “took steps” to ensure he wouldn’t go on its property, a club spokesman said at the time.