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Coach rape case stuns Walpole

On heels of Super Bowl win, a sense of betrayal

Daniel Villa at his arraignment in Wrentham yesterday. His alleged victim, a member of the girls' basketball team, talked to police on Dec. 24. Daniel Villa at his arraignment in Wrentham yesterday. His alleged victim, a member of the girls' basketball team, talked to police on Dec. 24. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / December 31, 2008
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WALPOLE - Just three weeks ago, Walpole was celebrating its high school's victory in the Division II Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. At the center of it all was Daniel Villa, a former Patriots lineman who had promised the team a championship when he took over as coach in 2001.

That recent sense of triumph has been shattered, however, replaced by feelings of betrayal and despair. As Villa appeared in a Massachusetts court yesterday to face charges that he raped a 15-year-old girl, it seemed that all Walpole was in shock.

"The community is reeling from it," said Nancy Gallivan, chairwoman of the School Committee, who has a child in the high school. "It's just so sad. People are hurting at this point."

Villa, a 44-year-old married father of four, looked bewildered and despondent as he stood in handcuffs behind a glass partition in Wrentham District Court. During a 20-minute hearing, he listened as a prosecutor read aloud in graphic detail the allegations that the coach had gained the girl's trust and then repeatedly assaulted her. Villa pleaded not guilty to three counts each of child rape and enticing, charges that carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Judge Warren A. Powers set bail at $100,000 and said that if Villa is released, he must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, surrender his passport, and stay away from Walpole school build ings. He also must avoid the victim and all children under 16, except his own children.

The bail was less than the $250,000 requested by the prosecutor, Bethany Rogers, who argued that Villa was a risk to flee. But the bail was higher than the $15,000 requested by Villa's lawyer, Heather V. Baer, who argued that despite his 11-year career in the NFL, Villa was "not a man of considerable means" and that his bail would have to be paid for by his parents in Arizona.

Prosecutors said Villa, who was also a teacher and the high school's athletic director, first met the victim when she was in elementary school and he was her basketball coach.

At Walpole High, "Villa would always ask her if she was all right and if she needed to talk to him, she could," according to a police report detailing an interview the girl gave to a state trooper on Dec. 24.

The two exchanged cellphone numbers, and at some point Villa began texting the girl. They met for the first time outside school in October, when she sneaked out of her home and he picked her up at 10:30 p.m. and drove her to a secluded area. They met multiple times, mostly on Friday nights, and their meetings led to "kissing, then a lot of kissing before progressing to a lot of touching," the report stated.

On Dec. 11, five days after Walpole's Super Bowl victory, the girl told Villa she was not allowed to see him anymore. Her father, she said, had discovered 500 text messages that Villa had sent in one month alone. Villa's messages said, in part, that "he had made a mistake, he was going to lose his wife and kids, and that he loved her," the report stated.

The girl told police that Villa "did something he shouldn't have done and that he should have known what he did was wrong."

Villa, who was recently named Division II Coach of the Year, resigned as teacher, coach, and athletic director Dec. 23 when the superintendent of schools confronted him about the relationship. Villa flew to Arizona for Christmas and then surrendered to police there after a warrant was issued for his arrest Friday.

He was released after his parents posted $50,000 on his behalf.

Rogers, the prosecutor, said yesterday that the investigation of Villa continues. Walpole schools, meanwhile, have arranged for crisis counselors to help students cope with the charges before they return from winter break on Jan. 5.

"Many of our students are experiencing a sense of loss, confusion, and betrayal," Superintendent Lincoln D. Lynch III said in a statement yesterday. "As a community, it will take time to heal from this difficult situation."

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com.

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