Former Ceres Dolphins swim teach coach Tracy Bull crossed the line two years ago when he intimated having sexual thoughts about a 14-year-old teammate whom he nicknamed “Chesty,” a prosecutor charged in her opening statement of his misdemeanor trial for annoying or molesting a child.
Deputy District Attorney Ahnna Reicks spelled out for jurors how Bull acted inappropriately with the underage victim who was identified as Jane Doe #1 and a 17-year-old girl as Jane Doe #2. Reicks also said three other girls will testify at his trial about experiencing the same conduct.
Bull, who had coached the swim organization for 10 years, was fired by the Dolphins in June 2016 after Ceres Police started their investigation. The Ceres Unified School District who hired Bull as a boys basketball and water polo coach at Ceres High School, also broke ties with Bull.
At the request of the prosecutor, Judge Cordova admonished Bull’s wife who reportedly rolled her eyes and shook her head during the preliminary hearing. Mrs. Bull was sitting in the audience when the judge said he would not tolerate such behavior from her or the few in the courtroom gallery.
“Crossing boundaries, betraying trust all in an attempt to date a Dolphin."Deputy District Attorney Ahnna Reicks
“Crossing boundaries, betraying trust all in an attempt to date a Dolphin,” said Reicks in her opening statement.
She recounted how the then eighth-grader wanted to join the youth swim team because her cousin, nicknamed “Wrong Way,” had joined.
“When Jane Doe #1 joined the team, the defendant, Coach Bull gave her a nickname,” Reicks told jurors. “However her nickname wasn’t like the other nicknames of the swimmers, which was really based a lot on personality. Her nickname was ‘Chesty’ and she’ll tell you she’d reached puberty and her breasts had developed. It bothered her. Members of her family complained. Her nickname changed to ‘Nuggs.’ She didn’t really understand ‘Nuggs’ but Coach Bull said it was because she was his ‘golden nugget.’ ”
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. She wasn’t able to read the message until she returned from a weekend camping trip. 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 Monday 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 tells about having a dream about her, slowly feeding her small details to see if she’ll respond for him to reveal more, said Reicks.
He tells the girl to 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 his 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 said she was disgusted, stopped communicating with Bull and told her family. She also did not want to show up for any practices.
“She was horrified,” said Reicks. “She 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 she took the stand the victim was asked by Reicks how the conversation made her feel, to which she answered: “I was extremely uncomfortable and disgusted … because he was my coach and I trusted him.” She felt Bull was being sexually suggestive and initially blamed herself because the first swimsuit was “too revealing at practices” and because she had “large breasts.”
When the girl’s family reported the incident to Ceres Police in June 2016, 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, said Reicks. She shared that 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 a boy who liked her and that he was “jealous” and “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.”
His defense attorney, Kirk McAllister acknowledged
that some of Bull’s actions were “stupid” but defended him against the
allegations. He said the girl had a loose swimsuit that “did not adequately
cover her breasts” and that Bull spoke to her family about getting a different
suit because she was “chesty.”
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 said Bull was “very unwise” to share the dream and then say “it could get me fired.”
“Nobody is going to say that was a smart thing to do but there’s one issue in this case and that is prosecution has to prove that there is an abnormal and unnatural sexual interest in a child,” McAllister told the jury. He said acting inappropriately alone does not earn Bull a guilty conviction.
His defense said the banter with Jane Doe #2 was “just Tracy being Tracy – that’s how he always talked.”
“He’s always joking around.”
McAllister also said Bull was only trying to get Jane Doe #2, who was from a poor family and living in a trailer park, to match up with a boy named Colin who was college bound and driven to succeed.
Marysa Duncan, who was present in the courtroom, was ordered by Judge Ricardo Cordova to appear in court on Tuesday as a witness for the prosecution.
It’s expected that the trial will go into late next week.