A state appeals court panel Wednesday upheld a former high school wrestling coach’s conviction on sex-related charges involving nine children.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that it was “satisfied” that Terry Terrell Gillard “received a trial that was fair and comported with due process.”
The Sylmar resident — who is serving a 71-year prison sentence — was convicted in May 2019 of three felony counts each of committing a lewd act on a child, committing a lewd act on a child 14 or 15 and oral copulation of a person under 18, along with 28 felony counts of procuring a child to engage in a lewd act and 10 misdemeanor counts of child molestation.
The charges involved seven boys and two girls between the ages of 11 and 17 whom he met through the wrestling teams at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley and the Boys and Girls Club of San Fernando between 1991 and 2017.
The appellate court panel noted in its 39-page ruling that jurors heard testimony that Gillard directed young teenagers to perform sexual acts while he watched and routinely groped the two girls.
Some of the victims spoke during his October 2019 sentencing.
“Once you gained our trust, you took advantage of us,” one of them said. “You sexually exploited us. You did so and have never shown any remorse for it.”
Outside court after the sentencing, attorneys from two law firms representing most of the victims lauded the lengthy prison sentence for Gillard.
“All of our clients are grateful to the criminal justice system for convicting Mr. Gillard and removing him from society so he can no longer abuse children,” attorney Morgan Stewart said. “We must now turn our attention to an equally important quest — for justice through the civil courts so victims, their families and the community at large can get to the truth of how Gillard was able, over a period of many years, to use the cover of a public high school and Boys and Girls Club wrestling teams to establish what amounted to an underage sex cult and child sex trafficking operation. We believe that lawsuits now pending against LAUSD (the Los Angeles Unified School District) and the Boys and Girls Club will lead us to that truth.”
Another attorney, Ronald Labriola, said the sentence “reflects both the harm and the pain that was caused to the victims of Mr. Gillard’s abuse” and the “length of time over which Mr. Gillard abused these victims — many years, many locations, on campus, off-campus, in cars and other locations.”
He called the victims “the real heroes in this story.”
“Mr. Gillard was arrested because of the courage and the bravery of these young victims, young high school students, some as young as in their freshman year,” Labriola added.
The LAUSD issued a statement saying, “Terry Gillard was placed on leave on June 9, 2017, and separated from Los Angeles Unified on June 22, 2017. Our thoughts are with the students and families affected by this situation. We remain vigilant in providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students.”