Former Ceres Dolphins swim coach Tracy Bull was sentenced to spend 180 days in the Public Safety Center after he pled guilty to two misdemeanor charges of annoying and molesting a child.
Bull had been the head coach for the recreational swim team, the Ceres Dolphins, for approximately 12 years when criminal charges were brought forward in June 2016. Ceres Police said victims he was coaching, aged 14 and 17 years old at the time, complained that Bull communicated inappropriately with them through text and social media instant messaging. He was released from the Ceres Dolphins, a non-profit organization for swimmers ages 5 to 18 years old, as soon as the arrest became known.
Bull was a defendant in a November trial that ended when he suddenly entered guilty pleas to both charges. No charges were dismissed in exchange for his plea.
Defense attorney Kirk McAllister requested that Stanislaus County Superior Judge Ricardo Cordova postpone sentencing to allow Bull a chance to apply for an alternative work program through the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. However, Deputy District Attorney Ahnna Reicks asked Bull to be placed in jail immediately, arguing that Bull had ample time to apply for the program following his admission of guilt. McAllister pushed back, saying Bull needed to receive the same treatment as every other defendant convicted of a misdemeanor.
Bull was ordered to report to the Public Safety Center on April 14 should he be turned down for the alternative work program.
Bull will receive credit for the two days spent behind bars following his June 15, 2016 arrest by Ceres Police.
Bull must register as a sex offender, and was ordered to stay away from the victims, not communicate online with any minor and avoid places where minors typically gather, ordered Cordova. He also has to make his computer, cell phone and other electronic devices available for searches to make sure he is not accessing pornography and not communicating with young people. Bull was also ordered to engage in counseling as a sex offender.
During the Monday, Jan. 14 sentencing hearing, the grandmother of one of the female victims wrote a letter that was read. She wrote that Bull suffered from “something broken” inside of him. She said the victims coming forward stopped Bull from harming other girls.
Cordova told Bull that he “should’ve known better” in the way he conducted himself with the two girls and said if he had touched the girls inappropriately that he would be faced with spending “serious time” locked up. He called Bull’s actions “very wrong and very inappropriate.”
During the short duration of the aborted trial, Reicks spelled out for jurors how Bull nicknamed the 14-year-old “Chesty” and later “Nuggs” and began slowly feeding enticing her to hear about an alleged sexual dream he had about her.
After being on the team about four months, Jane Doe #1 was approached by Bull with the suggestion that she “friend” him on Facebook. Days later on June 9, 2016 Bull began instant messaging her through Facebook. When the two engaged in a conversation about swimming, Bull then told the girl that he would be her “biggest fan” and his “favorite” but that it would be their secret.
The next day after swim practice Bull messaged the girl again about perfecting her breaststroke but the conversation turned when Bull suggested he was a “big Teddy bear.” He then tells the girl, “I have something to tell you. I don’t know if I should tell you. I don’t want you to be mad. I could get in trouble.” When the girl messaged, “What is it?,” Bull told about having a dream about her, slowly feeding her small details to see if she’ll respond for him to reveal more, said Reicks.
Bull messaged the victim not to judge him and noted, “I’m so damned old and you’re so young” before sharing that he woke up from the dream “and went WTF?” Bull asked the girl if he should go further and shared that in the dream the two were lying down after a swim meet and that she was on his side and that he had his hand on her hip “for some reason and you pushed back into me.” The victim testified in court that she was disgusted and stopped communicating with Bull. She told her family and quit the team.
Reicks said the girl was “horrified” and “understood right then and there that this entire conversation just turned sexual.”
Bull messaged the girl a whole day and a half in an attempt to reach her, said the prosecutor.
When the girl’s family reported the incident to Ceres Police, Bull’s cell phone was seized for a forensic examination. Detective Carlos Quiroz and Julio Amador found a string of “interesting” messages to another girl who was 17 at the time. Reicks said investigators learned that Bull had messaged a swimmer who was talking to a college recruiter, to which Bull said, “You just don’t love me anymore.” Bull then spoke about being jealous of a boy who liked her and said he had been “born 30 years too early.” Bull said he would “treat you great – plus I’m rich.” Once the victim ignored Bull’s message he wrote, “So I don’t have a chance? Okay, I’ll still be your biggest fan.”
McAllister tried to soften claims about the dream, saying Bull had been watching a movie with his wife and they were lying down and fell asleep with his hand on her hip and that he merely saw the girl’s face. He told the jury that they had to prove that Bull had an “abnormal and unnatural sexual interest” in a child and that acting inappropriately did not earn Bull a guilty conviction.
Days later the trial ended with the guilty plea.