Paul Gonzales, the 1984 Olympic boxing champion, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Thursday on eight felony counts for allegedly molesting a 13-year- old girl he met while working as a youth boxing coach in East Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Deborah S. Brazil ordered the 53-year- old Olympic gold medalist — who was arrested Dec. 29 and pleaded not guilty — to remain jailed in lieu of $545,000 bail.

Gonzales could face up to 18 years and four months in state prison if convicted of four counts of lewd acts on a child and one count each of an attempted lewd act on a child, possession of child or youth pornography, distributing or showing pornography to a minor and contact with a minor for a sexual offense.

The case stems from an investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which was contacted by one of the girl’s family members, according to sheriff’s Lt. Todd Deeds.

Gonzales has worked for the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department as the head coach at the Eddie Heredia Boxing Club on East Olympic Boulevard for the past 10 years, and met the alleged victim there last year, Deeds told reporters earlier this month.

“We believe that he befriended her and that he groomed her and we believe that lewd conduct was committed against her over a period of time,” Deeds said, declining to specify where the alleged crimes occurred.

The criminal complaint alleges that the lewd acts occurred on or between May 1 and Aug. 9 last year, and that the other crimes occurred on or between Aug. 1 and Dec. 29.

Defense attorney Joseph Gutierrez — who unsuccessfully argued that cameras should be excluded from the courtroom during the hearing — told the judge that the case has drawn media coverage because of Gonzales’ past that may compromise his safety behind bars. He noted that Gonzales had won a gold medal for the United States as a light flyweight and that “he’s never forgotten where he came from.”

The judge said Gonzales’ photo had already been published in the media and that the defense’s argument “does not outweigh the public’s right” to observe the proceedings, noting that the hearing “would not include any discussion of the facts” of the case.

Gonzales is due back at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse Feb. 28, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.

—City News Service

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