(KARE11) JANESVILLE, MINN -- A former southern Minnesota teacher and coach was sentenced today to nearly two years in prison after he was caught videotaping students in the locker room showers.
28-year-old Zach Roberts was sentenced to 21 months in prison after pleading guilty to 4 felony counts of sex-related crimes against minors. Roberts was originally charged with 8 felonies but agreed to a plea deal that reduced the number of charges.
Roberts admitted recording boys, some as young as 14, with a pen camera why they would shower in the Janesville-Waldorf Pemberton High School locker room. He was the assistant basketball coach at the time but resigned his position before allegations were made public.
The pen-camera was discovered when a student-athlete took it out of Roberts' bag to write down a play. Students told administration about it, and an internal investigation was launched. Investigators interviewed Roberts where he admitted to buying the pen for the purpose of recording the boys in the locker room. Roberts also told police that he had done this around 40-50 times in the past, and used the videos for sexual gratification.
The choir teacher and basketball coach has no criminal history and apologized for his actions in court. Roberts also accepted his responsibility for the pain he caused the teens and their parents. The 21-month sentence is an upward departure from state sentencing guidelines for the charges Roberts agreed to. His defense attorney told the judge that Robert has "gone far and beyond anyone I have ever seen" in accepting responsibility and seeking treatment for his actions.
The court room was filled with around 80 people during the sentencing. Support was shown for those whose victim statements were either read by the victim himself or a representative. One mother of a teenage victim said, "When word began spreading through the school, I actually defended him (Roberts). As the weeks and months passed the likelihood of these charges being false diminished."
"Mr. Roberts abused his trusted position as a coach to victimize adolescent boys," she added.