Former climbing coach pleads guilty to sexual abuse in Columbia

31-year-old admitted he and 14-year-old performed various sex acts

November 30, 2011|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

A former rock-climbing coach who worked at three Earth Treks facilities in the area admitted Wednesday that he and a 14-year-old girl he coached in Columbia had sex at that facility and elsewhere, as he pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a child.

Michael J. Lyons, 31, choked back tears as Howard County prosecutor Kim Oldham told Judge Louis A. Becker III that as an instructor and the former head coach of a competitive climbing team, Lyons had sex with the girl several times this year, though he knew it was wrong. Assistant public defender Mary Pizzo said Lyons did not force the various sex acts on the girl, calling them "consensual."

Prosecutors said they will ask Becker to sentence Lyons to serve eight years in prison, with another seven years suspended, though his lawyer can seek a shorter sentence. Lyons, who is scheduled to be sentenced in February, will also have to register as a sex offender.

The Baltimore Sun is not identifying the 14-year-old because she is a victim of a sex crime.

How the girl's mother became aware of what was going on was unclear, but she contacted police in June, and Lyons and a second climbing instructor were soon charged.

Detectives had the girl call Lyons on June 27, three days after her mother called police. The teenager told Lyons that her mother knew she'd had sex with him. She also told him she was pregnant, though she was not, prosecutors said. Lyons told the girl to not to implicate him because "if it's me, I'm going to jail," Oldham quoted him as saying.

Lyons was questioned afterward, admitted to the sexual encounters and was arrested, Oldham said. She said Lyons told police that he was a rock-climbing coach for 11 years and the head coach at Earth Treks since 2008. He managed a number of programs, including one in which the 14-year-old was a participant, she said.

The other Earth Treks instructor, an assistant coach, is accused of engaging in sexual acts with the same girl at her home, according to charging documents. A court date for Daniel L. Montague, 20, is expected to be moved up to Tuesday. He is charged with lesser sex offenses.

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