A North Carolina tennis coach who had carnal relations with a 15-year-old Macon girl he was coaching and secretly text-messaging in 2016 pleaded guilty Wednesday to child molestation and enticing a child for indecent purposes.
Benjamin Joseph Swain, now 44, was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 18 more on probation in exchange for his negotiated plea.
When Swain was questioned by investigators after the girl’s parents learned that she and Swain were exchanging inappropriate text messages, Swain admitted to fondling the girl and having her fondle him.
The girl, a standout tennis player, and her family had come to know Swain through tennis matches in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area where Swain lived. Swain agreed to coach the girl. On weekend visits to Georgia, Swain is said to have stayed as a guest at the girl’s Macon home.
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After the girl’s parents learned of the texts and other troubling behavior involving the pair, the parents told the police, who were waiting at the family’s home when Swain arrived for a coaching visit in June of 2016.
In Bibb County Superior Court on Wednesday, prosecutor Nancy Scott Malcor said that when investigators greeted Swain in the family’s driveway, Swain said, “I’m in big trouble, aren’t I?”
Swain, who is originally from England and still a British subject, was arrested and he confessed to investigators. He said he had “ridiculous feelings” for the teenage victim. He admitted to touching her inappropriately, kissing her and asking her to watch the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Swain, when he was arrested, also told investigators how he hid a pen camera in a motel bathroom to take pictures of another 15-year-old girl and two 14-year-old girls while the girls showered and used the toilet in the room the four were staying in on a trip to Illinois. Those girls, from the Charlotte area, had apparently accompanied him on a tennis trip to Illinois, where records show Swain had once lived.
Soon after Swain’s arrest, the Charlotte Observer newspaper reported that according to tennis websites, Swain billed himself “as a former professional tennis player with more than 25 years of experience. He says more than 40 of his students earned Division I scholarships.”
At Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Howard Simms, referring to Swain’s remarks to investigators when they first met Swain in his teenage victim’s driveway, said, “I think you got it right, Mr. Swain. You’re in big trouble.”
Swain could also face federal charges as well as state charges in North Carolina.
Speaking on his own behalf, Swain apologized to the Macon victim and her family and said, “I am totally ashamed of myself.”
“Well,” the judge replied, “you ought to be.”