Depositions taken in preparation for a former Indiana State Police trooper’s false reporting trial shed new light on the sex scandal that rocked Martinsville schools last year when it was discovered that a basketball coach had a sexual relationship with a student.
Ryan Harmon deposed several Martinsville community leaders and witnesses in the 2012 investigation of high school coach Tim Wolf, who was discovered in Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis on Feb. 12, 2012, with his pants unzipped in a vehicle with a 17-year-old girl who recently graduated from Martinsville High School.
Wolf and another teacher, tennis coach Jeff McGown, both admitted to having sexual relationships with the girl. Both pleaded guilty to child seduction charges and were given nine months of probation and were required to register as sex offenders.
Their arrests came after nearly a year of rumors about the relationships had attracted the attention of several top school officials.
“We had heard a lot of rumors,” school board president Charles Sampson admitted in a deposition taken last week. “Myself and probably some of the school board members.”
Harmon was successful in convincing a judge to permit the depositions as he sought to establish a motive by Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega and the Martinsville Police Department in pursuing false reporting charges against him.
Harmon, a private investigator, said he had received information about a sexual battery, involving a top town official and a local woman at a Martinsville steakhouse.
The woman and the employee denied the incident took place.
While conducting his own investigation, Harmon told Mayor Phil Deckard about the alleged assault and asked the mayor why the police department covered up the incident, as he claimed investigators had covered up the investigation into Wolf.
Harmon took a deposition from Martinsville Assistant Superintendent Randy Taylor who admitted the ex-state trooper had first told him about rumors of an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and a student on May 11, 2011.
“Were any of the allegations addressed at any school board meeting in the summer of 2011?” Taylor was asked.
“Yes,” he answered. “The process was a weekly review that Dr. Furniss put together.”
Dr. Ron Furniss is the Martinsville school superintendent.
After the allegation was brought to his attention, Furniss said he reported the information to the Department of Child Services and had a staff member confront Wolf and the girl.
“We found that at that time they were both denying that anything was going on,” Furniss answered under oath.
A month later in June of 2011, Harmon’s mother, Donna, a retired school guidance counselor, talked with a pair of teenage girls who said they had spotted Wolf and the girl walking around the darkened high school football field at 10:30 p.m.
“They were walking around the high school track holding hands,” Harmon said in a deposition. “And that Tyler Sonnega had videotaped them on his cell phone.”
Tyler Sonnega is the college-age son of Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega.
“I suggested that both girls go with Tyler to his dad, Steve Sonnega, and report to him,” said Harmon.
Det. Brian Chambers of the Martinsville Police Department was assigned the case.
“Steve reviewed what turned out to be a video,” said Chambers in his deposition. “He said it was grainy. And it proved no evidentiary value to me. I didn’t follow it up from there.”
At the Morgan County Courthouse Thursday, Sonnega was asked by Fox59 News about the cell phone video. He said it was of poor quality but that it showed Wolf and the girl holding hands.
Sonnega said once Wolf realized he had been observed with the girl, he told school officials that he was walking with the girl to counsel her and she became upset and he was holding her hand to calm her down.
The prosecutor said he had reached out to a third party to advise Wolf that even the appearance of an inappropriate relationship with a student should be avoided.
Sonnega said the cell phone video was irrelevant as evidence since Wolf had provided an explanation of the incident and that is why he never passed the video on to Det. Chambers, whom he said never ask for it.
Sonnega said he did not have a conflict of interest in judging and dismissing evidence of a potential inappropriate relationship that was gathered by his son and he treated the case as any other.
Following Wolf’s arrest in February of 2012, Sonnega called for a special prosecutor from Johnson County to investigate the case because of his own son’s involvement.
The school district’s internal investigation remained quiet throughout the summer of 2011, but then in November, district officials became aware that the girl had a master key to Martinsville High School, a key that could unlock any door in the building.
Fox59 News received a copy of a photograph that purportedly shows that key on the girl’s keychain.
“Did you see a photograph where that child supposedly had a key?” Superintendent Ron Furniss was asked.
“Yes,” said Furniss.
“Did you report that to law enforcement?” asked an attorney.
“I didn’t,” said Furniss. “No.”
The girl worked for Wolf at a Subway store he co-owned in Martinsville with his son.
“I know that the principal met with the student, met with the teacher, met with the student’s parent, father,” said Furniss. “The student worked at Subway. She had graduated in November. Was bringing stuff over, kind of a runner.”
“Did the principal then recover the key at the time?” Furniss was asked.
“I don’t know,” said the superintendent.
The discovery of the girl’s possession of the high school master key came just eight months after a Martinsville Middle School student was shot by another boy, prompting a district-wide reevaluation of school security.
Three months later, on Feb. 12, 2012, Wolf and the girl were discovered in an Indianapolis park. Wolf was arrested and resigned from his post at the school. The girl’s revelations then led to the arrest of McGown.
Det. Brian Chambers told lawyers representing Ryan Harmon that he did not write a report on the 2011 incidents and investigations until after Wolf’s arrest.
One month later, Sonnega recused himself and called for a special prosecutor and investigation by Indiana State Police.
Harmon’s strategy to use the depositions and witnesses to paint his charges on false reporting as retaliation by the police and prosecutor for his dismay over the unfounded investigation of Wolf in 2011 failed as Judge Christopher Burnham repeatedly refused their introduction into the trial.
Burnham found Harmon guilty of three misdemeanor counts of false informing related to the steakhouse sexual battery allegations. He faces $566 in fines and court costs and one year probation. Harmon asked for a jail sentence of 14 days.
Judge Burnham told Harmon to avail himself of counseling services offered by the probation department while serving his suspended sentence.