Daily Iowan - Metro
Ex-Hawk wrestling coach charged
By Alex Lang - The Daily Iowan
A former Hawkeye wrestling coach and Olympic contender was charged with indecent exposure Tuesday on allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward one of his wrestlers' girlfriends in November 2003.
In a report filed with police and obtained by the The Daily Iowan, ex-Hawkeye wrestler Jason D'Agata and his girlfriend accused former assistant coach Joe Williams of making unwanted sexual advances toward her in D'Agata's apartment and then masturbating while D'Agata was at work. Williams, an Ames resident, turned himself in to Iowa City police on Tuesday and was released on his own recognizance, said police Sgt. Doug Hart.
Williams was unavailable for comment. In court records, Williams said his exposure was an accident, that his penis had fallen out of his boxer shorts during a back rub.
Indecent exposure is a serious misdemeanor punishable by one year in prison and a fine as large as $1,500.
In an exclusive interview with the DI, D'Agata and his girlfriend said they told UI head wrestling coach Jim Zalesky, assistant coach Tom Brands, and Associate Athletics Director Fred Mims about the alleged incident, and they were informed the university would investigate. But no one from the university contacted them, D'Agata said.
Hawkeye Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby said he had no comment, saying Williams' Feb. 7, 2004, resignation from the team was a private personnel matter. However, Zalesky acknowledged on Tuesday that Williams had left the team because of the incident and his training for the Olympics.
Despite the charge, the couple feels little comfort about the incident and the way it was handled.
"I feel no sense of closure to this whatsoever, "the woman said. "I had to go the doctor in February after all this. I was just sick over it. If this ever happens to another girl ... my conscience isn't allowing me to stop with this. It's just telling me this guy needs to be stopped; he has a problem."
Williams, who worked at the UI for three years, was D'Agata's personal coach, specifically coaching his weight class. Outside of practices and training, the two did not spend time together, D'Agata said. The girlfriend said she had baby-sat for William's son before because "most of the wrestlers' girlfriends did it."
GIRLFRIEND: 'I WAS SCARED OUT OF MY MIND'
In a two-page statement to police, the girlfriend told a graphic account about the late-night encounter that she said began with a seemingly harmless phone call. Police would not confirm the account, but an Aug. 26, 2004, incident report obtained through Iowa's open-records laws showed that authorities were investigating the claim.
According to the statement, Williams called D'Agata's apartment on Nov. 14, 2003, and insisted on speaking to his girlfriend that night about D'Agata's wrestling. Although D'Agata was not home, the girlfriend said she agreed because he was a trusted coach of D'Agata and she had baby-sat for his son before.
Williams came to the apartment, and the two discussed medication D'Agata was taking, according to the statement. Williams allegedly inquired about the couple's sexual relationship, which made the woman "uncomfortable."
The former Hawkeye coach then asked the woman for a massage and said he would offer incentives if she massaged him every month, according to the statement. The girlfriend said she told Williams to leave, then ran into the bathroom to "figure out what to do."
"I was scared out of my mind, "the girlfriend said.
When she came out, Williams had his hand around his penis and, according to the statement, said, "I have a way that you can help out Jason; come over here and help me out. "The girlfriend again told Williams to leave, she said, but he refused, so she locked herself in the bedroom.
Williams went to the door and said he wasn't leaving until he was "finished, "according to the statement. He returned minutes later, told her he had masturbated, and left.
"I just wanted to cry, "the girlfriend recalled. "I feel like crying right now."
She said she stepped out of the bedroom and locked the apartment's door, then called a close friend to tell her about the incident.
The friend, who requested anonymity because she doesn't want to become involved in the case, said D'Agata's girlfriend was crying about the incident and confused. For the next few days, she was "quiet "and more reserved, the friend said.
When D'Agata returned home from work around 1:30 a.m., his girlfriend told him about the alleged encounter.
"I was shocked, "D'Agata said. "I really didn't know what to think."
It wasn't until three days later, on Nov. 17, 2003, that D'Agata said Williams called him. Throughout the conversation, Williams was "stuttering like a little girl. Stuttering like I've never heard anybody stutter before, "D'Agata said.
"He told me he apologizes for whatever it is [I think] that he did, "D'Agata said.
D'Agata said he no longer practiced with Williams, but Williams remained in his corner during meets, which was difficult.
"It was an uncomfortable situation when I had him in my corner and I wanted to kick his ass and not my opponents', "D'Agata said.
BLOWING THE WHISTLE
The couple went to athletics administrators in January 2004 and told them about the incident, D'Agata said. The 24-year-old said he and his girlfriend kept quiet at first because they were embarrassed and didn't want to harm the team, which had several wrestlers vying for national championships.
Zalesky, who confirmed he had learned about the incident in January 2004, said he raised the issue with Williams soon afterward. The incident sounded like a "he said, she said "situation, he said.
The UI's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity is responsible for examining sexual-harassment claims on campus, but the office can probe off-campus incidents if they affect a student's classroom performance, said Charlotte Westerhaus, the university's director of Equal Opportunity.
She could not comment on specific cases but said that if students tell administrators - such as coaches or athletics officials - about sexual harassment, the administrators are required to notify her office. The office will then look into the allegation and provide a written report of its findings.
D'Agata said he never talked to anybody from the office about an investigation.
The only response from a university official came during a conversation with former head coach Dan Gable, now a special assistant to the athletics director.
Gable said he talked about the incident with D'Agata late in the wrestling season and apologized for Williams' behavior. "The guy needed somebody to talk to, "Gable said.
"I complained to [Gable] because I didn't understand how a man like this, who could do this, was representing the United States of America. I thought that was very sick, "D'Agata said.
The couple is considering further legal action, including a civil suit against Williams and the university.
"Basically, we're looking for them to be held responsible for the damage that they have done and to be sure this never happens again, "D'Agata said.
Williams, who served as an assistant wrestling coach for three years, came to the UI in 1995 to wrestle for the Hawkeyes. He compiled a 129-9 record, won three national championships, and was named an All-American all four years at the UI. He also was an Olympic athlete during the 2004 summer games.