VISTA — A San Diego Superior Court judge sentenced a former North County volleyball coach to prison June 15 in connection with having unlawful sexual relationships with three of his former players.
Judge Timothy Casserly sentenced Steven Antony to two years in prison in accordance with his plea agreement. Antony, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of committing a lewd act with a 14- or 15-year-old with the allegation that Antony was 10 years older than the victims, as well as three counts of engaging in sexual intercourse with a person under 18 and who was at least three years younger than the defendant — all felonies.
Under his plea agreement, which he took in May three days before his trial was scheduled to begin, Antony could have received nearly six years in prison; however, Casserly chose to run the charges concurrent with a mid-term sentence. Prior to his plea, Antony faced more than a dozen charges relating to his sexual exploits.
Throughout the case the three victims maintained that they pursued their relationships with Antony and were in no way harmed by him.
“When I think of Steve I think of a man who is kind and loving,” Renee H. wrote in a letter to the judge. “In no way do I feel that he ever took advantage of me or preyed on me like the pedophile he is being portrayed as.”
Antony met Renee H. in 1996 when he was the girls’ junior varsity volleyball coach for Vista High School and she was one of his 14-year-old freshmen players, according to court documents. Renee H. said their sexual relationship lasted several months and that she was not only the aggressor in the relationship, but also broke it off.
His relationship with Aimee A. was Antony’s next with one of his players. The two started having a sexual relationship in 1998 when Aimee A. was 15. The two eventually married but divorced in March 2008.
Following his divorce, Antony began dating then-17-year-old Rachel K., a Rancho Buena Vista High School student, who played for his now-defunct Sunstorm Volleyball Club.
“I was not being hurt by Steve in any way, but yet people are trying to make it seem like I was,” Rachel K. said in a letter to the court. “I am 17-years-old, only one year away from the law of consenting and several years older than a normal kid that is sexually active.”
In her letter to the judge and in an interview following the preliminary hearing, Rachel K. said she is still in love with Antony and the two plan to pursue their intimate relationship when he is released. “I am hoping that this is just a speed bump in mine and Steve’s relationship and it will help us grow together and a great life with each other,” she wrote.
Prosecutor Lisa Stark wrote in her sentencing brief, in which she requested Antony be denied probation, that Rachel K.’s letter to the court demonstrates “the level of manipulation and control” Antony has upon her even while he has been in custody. She said Antony’s role was hardly one of passive participation, but instead was the “calculated and manipulated grooming of these victims to fall in love with him so he could pursue and fulfill his own sexual desires.”
Prior to his arrest in January, Antony taught special education and coached boys and girls volleyball teams at Escondido’s San Pasqual High School beginning in 2004.