Judge denies plea deal for Durham gym training amid child sex charges :: WRAL.com

– A former Durham gymnastics coach charged with sex crimes against three young gymnasts has been offered a plea deal – which comes with a much lighter sentence.

This week, however, a judge refused to accept the deal as written.

Stephen Maness, the man at the center of this case, once ran Bull City Gymnastics. He is accused of assaulting three young girls who were registered there.

Maness has been accused of assaulting a young gymnast over an 8-year period from 2012 to 2020.

Two other young girls say Maness assaulted them between 2015 and 2019.

All three girls appeared in court this week expecting the case to be over, until the judge ruled the plea deal wasn’t tough enough.

WRAL News tried to speak to the former coach at his Chapel Hill home, but no one answered the door.

Durham Police initially charged him with three counts of taking indecent liberty and three counts of sexual assault. But a proposed plea deal would reduce the 6 felonies to 7 misdemeanors, including child assault, woman assault and child abuse.

Stephen Maness, Bull City Gymnastics

The plea includes a 120-day suspended sentence, which means:

  • No prison sentence
  • 5 years supervised probation
  • Prohibition of gym facilities and supervision of children under 18
  • A no contact order with the victims or their families

The judge rejected the proposal, asking Maness to also be required to follow advice for sex offenders.

After an investigation by the US Center for SafeSport, Maness was deemed “ineligible” to be a member of USA Gymnastics.

Stephen Maness, Bull City Gymnastics

This is good news for the victims and their families, who say their goal from the start was to protect other young girls from what they endured.

Maness ran not only Bull City Gymnastics, but also Chapel Hill Gymnastics. Maness is expected to be back in court early next month, so he can learn his ultimate sentence in just weeks.

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