A former Elk River youth soccer league coach has been charged with two counts of sexual assault for allegedly asking a 14-year-old player to disrobe and then touching her, and, on another occasion, exposing himself to her -- more than a year after he had been banned from coaching.
Eric James Hawkins, 44, did not enter a plea Wednesday in Sherburne County District Court. He was charged in November with first- and second-degree sexual assault, both felonies.
Hawkins had been suspended by the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association in 2003 for sideline behavior during his games and should not have been allowed to coach MYSA-sanctioned teams, the association's executive director, Candace Daley, said Wednesday.
In October 2006, Hawkins was ordered by Hennepin County District Court to pay $220,000 to the MYSA after he and five other defendants were found sending defamatory e-mails concerning the MYSA, Daley said.
Court documents said he had driven the player to practice and games on several occasions during the winter of 2004-2005. But one evening, en route to a soccer clinic in Plymouth, the coach pulled over on a road unfamiliar to the girl, parked his car and asked the girl to remove her shirt and bra, the girl told authorities.
According to court records, the girl told Hawkins she did not want to remove her clothes, but the coach insisted. Hawkins then told her to remove her pants and when the girl balked, the coach told her "that she needed to," according to court documents.
Hawkins then touched the girl, even though she asked him to stop, the girl told authorities. After Hawkins allowed the girl to put on her clothes, he threw $25 at her, according to court documents.
Later, in the fall of 2005, Hawkins was driving the girl, still 14, to a soccer game when he pulled his car over, unbuttoned his pants and exposed himself to her, court records state. Hawkins then forced the girl to touch him with her hand. She pulled away, telling him it was "gross."
Court records indicate that Hawkins had been suspended by the MYSA for inappropriate language and taunting during games, according to MYSA records.
Hawkins' court hearing lasted less than five minutes; another hearing is scheduled for April 4. Hawkins, who coached in the Elk River United youth league, told Judge Alan Pendelton that he now lives in South Carolina.
Hawkins did not respond to a reporter's questions after the hearing.
Under MYSA's risk-management policy, youth soccer leagues are responsible for background checks for coaches and are made aware of the risks to children of adults who have committed previous sexual offenses.
Hawkins is not known to have had any criminal history prior to these charges.
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419