A state appeals court panel upheld a former Torrance High School wrestling coach’s conviction for fondling male students while pretending to give them skin checks.
Ruling in the case of Thomas Joseph Snider, the three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found that “strong evidence supported the inference that defendant intended to arouse himself.”
“Defendant performed skin examinations on portions of the student’s body that would neither touch other wrestlers, nor the wrestling mat, casting doubt on the explanation that they would help eradicate skin disease. The fact that the girls did not undergo skin examinations even though they used the same mats as the boys further cast doubt on defendant’s stated motivation,” the panel wrote in a 34-page ruling. “Defendant massaged students near their groins even when that was not the injury site and offered no medical explanation for this conduct. Significantly, the extensive nature of the pornography found on defendant’s home computer and other electronic devices supported the inference that he was sexually interested in adolescent boys.”
Snider, now 50, was convicted in October 2016 of 26 felony counts of committing a lewd act on a child of 14 or 15, three felony counts of lewd act on a child under 14 and eight misdemeanor counts of child molesting. He was sentenced the same month to 69 years to life in state prison.
At Snider’s sentencing, one of the victim’s mother said she would only consider justice being served “if I could kill him myself.”
“I will never forgive you,” another victim’s mother wrote in a statement read in court by Deputy District Attorney Juree Kim. “You are an evil and vile excuse of a human being. You’re a monster that hunted and abused our children like prey in the wild. You deserve every ounce of suffering and pain coming your way and I pray you die slowly and that your soul burns in hell.”
The case involved 25 students between the ages of 13 and 16 who were inspected by Snider under the guise of checking for skin diseases, according to evidence presented at his trial. During the inspections, Snider had the teens take off their clothing and would sometimes touch their genitals, according to prosecutors.
Snider also watched students shower and massaged several of them, according to evidence presented at his trial. School officials became aware of Snider’s conduct after students told opposing team members about the skin checks, according to prosecutors.
Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold said Snider abused the trust that students had placed in him as their coach.
“The last thing I want to say to you is shame on you for what you’ve done,” the judge said.
The Torrance Unified School District announced last month that it would pay $31 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the families of 22 of the boys.
“This settlement spares these students and their families the difficulties of a protracted trial, while at the same time being mindful of the financial consequences stemming from settlements,” TUSD Superintendent George Mannon said in a statement released last month. “As a result, we believe we have struck a reasonable balance between these objectives.”
“Our priority has been to resolve these cases without the need for potentially painful litigation for these families. We know these settlements will provide for the future needs of these students. We believe this will help close this chapter for these families,” Mannon said.