Former BHS coach pleads guilty to sexual misconduct with student athlete

The former Bainbridge High School coach accused of first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor after she allegedly had a romantic relationship with a student athlete pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and was sentenced earlier this month in Kitsap County Superior Court.

Nicole Elizabeth Hebner, 36, who was a coach for two girls’ sports teams at BHS, according to court documents had sex with one of her players, who was 18 at the time, and carried on a relationship with the younger woman between June 2015 and June 2016, when the teen had been on two teams that Hebner coached.

She had originally entered a plea of “not guilty” after having been charged with felony first-degree sexual misconduct in August last year.

On Thursday, Feb. 1, Hebner pleaded to fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation.

She was sentenced to 30 days in custody at the Kitsap County Jail, which was then converted to electronic home monitoring, an arrangement set to begin March 1.

She would also be on unsupervised probation for two years.

Though the younger woman was 18 years old at the time, Hebner’s position as a school employee, her being “15 years older” than the student, and their not being married, were sufficient legal grounds for the charge.

Though the illicit relationship — which the student later told police was consensual — first officially came to the attention of authorities in July 2016 in light of statements Hebner made to colleagues and friends about “an inappropriate relationship” she was engaged in with a student, police found the former coach’s behavior around, and the amount of time she spent with, the younger woman had been eyed warily by many — including Hebner’s male fiancé — even before then.

The investigation ultimately revealed a picture of a lengthy and conspicuous affair that had previously been noticed many who knew the former coach.

According to police records obtained through a public records request by the Review, in July 2016 Hebner contacted several of her friends and colleagues and said she’d had an “inappropriate relationship” with a student.

Several witnesses eventually told police the two women had “spent a lot of time together.”

Upon being contacted by police, the former student gave permission for her phone to be examined and provided the security code. Forensic investigation of the device showed numerous texts between her and Hebner, many relating to getting together, meeting places, and Hebner giving her rides.

There were also photos and videos showing the two of them together, some of which appeared to be inside Hebner’s home, according to police records.

The younger woman described in great detail the sexual acts which she and Hebner had engaged in together, and told police that Hebner was “unhappy in her relationship with her fiancé,” and wanted to leave him and live with her.

She said the plan was for them to live together after the she completed college.

The former student had known Hebner for about eight years, she said.

Their initial relationship was of a “mother-daughter” type.

It turned sexual in the summer of 2015, she said.

“Nicole let me know how she had felt in the beginning of summer,” the student said. At which time, she told police, she confessed to Hebner that she felt the same way.

Police records indicate the student had been very adamant in her desire to speak with the former coach, even in the early stages of the investigation.

She emailed police in December 2016, identifying herself as “the student” involved with Hebner and asking to speak with someone about the case. She wrote, “I just want to be able to see her again and to know when I can see her.”

The younger woman was provided a case update by police, according to reports.

Then, later that month, she again contacted police asking when the case would be completed. She wrote, “I just want to be able to talk to her and see her.”

On Jan. 14, 2017, the former student again emailed police asking how much longer the case would take to wrap up.

During the initial August court appearance, Hebner’s lawyer alleged that while Hebner had been adamantly adhering to the legal order to avoid all contact with the younger woman, the former student had been obsessively attempting to contact Hebner by phone and email.

Hebner was the second Bainbridge Island School District employee to be charged with sexual misconduct with a student during a two-year span.

Jessica Fuchs, a former BHS biology teacher, plead guilty to charges of felony first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor and tampering with a witness, and also the gross misdemeanor of communication with a minor for immoral purposes, in 2015.

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