UPDATE: Park City High coach faces charges in physical confrontation with student
Sep 16, 2022, 2:21 PM | Updated: Nov 18, 2022, 10:22 pm
(Mengshin Lin, Deseret News)
PARK CITY — The head coach for the Park City High School girls tennis team is facing criminal charges accusing her of being in a heated confrontation with a player that became physical.
Lani M. Wilcox, 62, of Salt Lake City, was charged Friday in Summit County’s 3rd District Court with aggravated child abuse, a third-degree felony; and interrupting an emergency phone call, a class B misdemeanor.
But Wilcox’s attorney, Clayton Simms, says it was the student who provoked the confrontation and his client was trying to defend the other members of her team and assistant coaches.
“Prosecutors got it wrong,” Simms said. “They should reward that behavior.”
On Aug. 29, police say Wilcox and a 16-year-old player “got into a verbal argument regarding (the girl’s) position on the team.” The argument got heated and Wilcox “got in (the girl’s) face,” according to charging documents. Police say the girl then slapped Wilcox’s face.
Wilcox is accused of responding by grabbing the girl “around the neck in a chokehold” and taking her to the ground while continuing to have her in a chokehold, according to prosecutors.
But Simms says there was no choking. And the teen also assaulted an assistant coach, he said.
“It was such a ferocious attack from the player to the coach,” he said. “It was outrageous behavior.”
Once the girl broke away, she got her phone and told Wilcox that she was calling police. The coach grabbed the phone out of the girl’s hands and walked away, the charges state.
The Park City School District said it learned of the charges being filed Friday afternoon.
“PCSD takes matters such as these seriously and will work with the proper authorities. Our district is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and employees, and as such, the employee remains on administrative leave. PCSD will have no additional comment on this personnel matter,” the district said in a prepared statement.
Simms notes that Wilcox is a former professional player and veteran coach who has taught thousands of people, and nothing like this has ever happened before.
Prior to taking the head coaching job at Park City High School, Wilcox was the head coach for the boys team at Skyline High School and girls team at Judge Memorial High School, winning multiple state championships with each school.
“What’s sad about it is she was absolutely protecting other high school girls from being assaulted,” her attorney said. “She reacted to this attack. She did the right thing, she protected the kids on the team. There’s no doubt in my mind she’s going to get a ‘not guilty’ verdict.”
According to Simms, the teenage student was charged in juvenile court with two counts of assault.