A former Brookfield cheerleading coach escaped prison time Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to exchanging nude photographs with a 15-year-old Monroe girl he had been coaching. Standing before Superior Court Judge Richard Arnold, 31-year-old Manuel Batson apologized for his actions, but avoided looking at the girl and her mother seated a few feet from him in the courtroom. Batson, of Church Street in Ansonia, admitted sending nude photos of himself to the girl, but claimed he thought it was all right because she had told him she was already smoking and drinking. He pleaded guilty to risk of injury to a minor and was sentenced by Arnold to a three-year suspended term, followed by five years probation. The judge also ordered Batson to register as a sex offender and never again be employed where he would have unsupervised contact with children and teenagers.
Batson’s lawyer, Dean Popkin, said his client is now in construction.Assistant State’s Attorney Tatiana Messina told the judge the victim and her mother were satisfied with the plea bargain, but wanted to make sure Batson would be classified as a sex offender.”We have information that the defendant did similar actions to two other girls and we want to ensure that wherever he goes in the future there is a public warning that he is a convicted sex offender,” Messina said. The other girls refused to testify against Batson.On Nov. 21, 2011, the girl and her mother complained to police that the girl was having an inappropriate relationship with Batson, her coach at Northeast Tropics Gym in Brookfield.Police said the girl had begun cheerleading at the gym in July 2011. During some of the practices, police continued, that Batson would flirt with the girl and later struck up a relationship with her on Facebook.In some of their conversations on Facebook, police said, the two wrote about the girl being a virgin and how she would feel if she lost her virginity to Batson.Later, police said Batson convinced the girl to send him four nude photos of herself in exchange for him sending three nude photos to her. Police said the girl later told them that she was afraid if she didn’t exchange nude photos with Batson, “It would make cheer practice really weird.”Police said Batson admitted to them he sent nude photos of himself to the girl but claimed he thought she was older because she told him she had been at a party smoking and drinking and teenagers in his family don’t do that sort of thing until they are of the proper age.CT Post, Dan Tepfer