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Former Keppel Coach Pleads No Contest in Sex Abuse Case

Former Mark Keppel High School girls basketball coach Joseph Alan Kikuchi was convicted Wednesday of sexually abusing a teenager over a span of seven months in 2015, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Joseph Kikuchi

In his appearance at the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, the 57-year-old Monterey Park resident pleaded no contest to all counts in an open plea to the court: 12 felony counts of sexual penetration by foreign object, five felony counts of lewd acts upon a child, one felony count of oral copulation of a person under 16, and five misdemeanor counts of child molesting.

The open plea means Kikuchi and his attorney, Mia Yamamoto, did not negotiate a sentence with the District Attorney’s Office. Yamamoto made no comments after Wednesday’s hearing.

Kikuchi, who remains free on bail, is scheduled to return for sentencing on Feb. 9 in Department T at the Alhambra courthouse. He faces up to 19 years in state prison.

Deputy District Attorney Rena Durrant, who prosecuted the case, said at the time of the crime, Kikuchi was the girls’ varsity basketball coach at Mark Keppel High in Alhambra.

In July 2015, rumors of an inappropriate relationship between Kikuchi and a female student began circulating through the school, according to the prosecutor. The relationship is said to have taken place between February and September 2015.

Two months later, a staff member at the school relayed the information to law enforcement, who then began an investigation. Kikuchi was subsequently arrested and charged on Oct. 21, 2015.

In a hearing later that month, witnesses from the DA’s office and the Alhambra Police Department delivered often salacious details of the relationship between Kikuchi and the girl, based on more than 52,000 text messages retrieved from the girl’s cell phone.

The texts were augmented by testimony from district attorney investigator Karen Matsumoto-Heslin, who described information from her interviews with the alleged victim.

Some of the text messages read in court indicate the girl was being harmed physically by her encounters with Kikuchi, meetings prosecutors say took place in an underground parking lot or other secluded areas. Matsumoto-Heslin testified that the girl described how Kikuchi would offer to drive her to and from basketball practice after school, and that sexual activity between the two would happen at these times.

The text messages indicate that the girl was perhaps attempting to break off the relationship, but that Kikuchi refused, expressing his love for her.

“If I say stop please stop, ok. I know it’s love but still,” Durrant quoted from a May 5, 2015 message. Durrant said Kikuchi’s reply was, “Ok, but don’t say stop because I won’t all the time.”

Durrant said a June 1 text from Kikuchi read, “Babe can you please not seem like you’re mad at me after all the time please,” to which the girl responded, “’Cuz I tell you to stop and you don’t! I mean like when UR touching.”

Prosecutors have said that Kikuchi threatened the girl when she tried to end the relationship.

For years, Kikuchi was a popular coach within the local Asian basketball community, and is credited with transforming the Keppel girls’ program into a perennial contender. At last October’s hearing, scores of letters expressing community support for the coach were delivered to the judge, who took considerable time in evaluating their relevance to the case.

Jane Anderson, president of the Alhambra Unified School District Board of Education, told The Pasadena Star-News she’s glad the case is over.

“I’m glad the courts have prevailed,” Anderson said.

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