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John Myers, Published September 18 2013

Jury finds former coach guilty of sex charges

DULUTH, Minn. – The attorney for a former youth basketball coach said Wednesday that the preteen sisters who accused his client of sexually assaulting them in the summer of 2012 are jealous of each other, starved for attention and habitual liars who can’t be trusted.

But a St. Louis County jury of seven women and five men didn’t buy it and found Wendell Greene, 37, guilty of having sexual contact with the sisters, who were 8 and 10 at the time.

The jury, deliberating about three hours, found Greene guilty of three of four counts of criminal sexual conduct, including one count of the more serious first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of second degree. He was found not guilty on another second-degree charge.

Greene, a former U.S. Marine and former member of the 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard, will be sentenced Nov. 4. He faces up to 12 years for the first-degree conviction under state sentencing guidelines.

The girls’ mother, family and friends and social service staff and law enforcement officers who have worked in the case shared hugs after the verdict with prosecuting attorney Rebekka Stumme.

“I’m very happy that the jury decided to dig a little deeper and really look at the evidence for these little girls,” Stumme said.

In a separate case, Greene has been charged with having sex with a 14-year-old girl during the summer of 2010. That case is expected to be tried later this year.

Girls’ statements

Stumme and defense attorney Thomas Skare made their final arguments Wednesday morning to the jury, which began deliberations about noon.

Skare said the girls’ stories were so muddled that no one knows what happened when the 8-year-old accused Greene of touching her in a car and in his bathroom when she spent the weekend with him; or when Greene and the 10-year-old stopped to use the bathroom in Greene’s apartment, only for the girl to end up undressed on his bed and inspected by Greene – he said to check for spots on her skin.

“These kids can’t get the facts straight. If this was such a traumatic event, wouldn’t you get the facts straight?” Skare asked the jury.

But Stumme countered Skare’s assertions that the girls can’t be believed with the question of why would they perpetuate such a lie for 15 months? In fact, Stumme said, the girls’ statements, bolstered by testimony of mental health and social services experts and by another teen who said Greene had sex with her, are remarkable for their detail and consistency.

The older sister “told her mother that Greene ‘told me I tasted yummy,’ ” Stumme said of the girl’s account of Greene licking her genital area. “Is that reasonable (that she would make up that level of detail)? Or does it only come from suffering through that action?”

Stumme also repeated Greene’s own words, when asked by St. Louis County social service investigator Andrew Fena if Greene had touched the girl’s genitals.

“Probably. Yes, sir,” Greene responded on the audiotaped interview that jurors heard earlier this week.

Coaching history

Greene had been both a personal care attendant and basketball coach for the two sisters as well as a basketball coach to the teenager he is accused of having sex with multiple times while she was in the eighth-grade.

According to his Facebook page, Greene said he coached and refereed in the Salvation Army Rookie Basketball Association from 2008 to 2012. He wrote that he also coached seventh-grade Duluth East High School girls in 2007-08; sixth-grade Hermantown, Minn., girls in 2009; and in the Duluth Amateur Youth Basketball Association from 2010-12.

Greene said he was a native of Albany, Ga., had been wounded in combat as a Marine in 2003 and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He said he moved to Duluth in 2007 to work with the Minnesota Air National Guard and began coaching, refereeing and supervising youth sports in 2008.

The trial began last week in front of State District Court Judge Mark Munger in Duluth.