Basketball coach faces sexual assault charges in Warren

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published February 5, 2019

 Turner

Turner

WARREN — New Haven High School’s girls varsity basketball coach has been remanded to the Macomb County Jail with bail set at $250,000 following his arrest and arraignment on sexual assault charges involving a 17-year-old student who plays on the team.

Latwan Turner, 43, was charged with four counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and gross indecency Feb. 4 when he appeared in the 37th District Court before Judge Matthew Sabaugh.

Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer said officers on routine patrol at the Red Roof Inn on Dequindre Road, just south of 11 Mile Road, observed suspicious movement in a vehicle in the parking lot at about 4 p.m. Feb. 2.

“They investigated and found that there was some sexual activity taking place,” Dwyer said. “Further investigation revealed that he was 43 and she was 17. She was on his basketball team as a player.”

At Turner’s arraignment, Assistant Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Kumar Palepu asked the judge to set bond at $1 million based on the allegations laid out by Warren police, which currently span four separate occasions.

“The defendant engaged in a long period of predatory conduct. He was caught in the act. He made admissions to police on the scene,” Palepu said. “There is significant evidence supporting these charges. I believe, therefore, he’s a flight risk.

“This wasn’t one act. It was several. He’s a danger to the victim. He’s a danger to the public. He violated a young girl and the trust of everyone in the New Haven community,” Palepu said.

Sabaugh set a lower bond than requested, but required Turner to wear a GPS tether, to refrain from using any computer device and to have no contact with the victim or the school if he is released from custody.

Turner, who appeared on video from the Warren jail, said little during the hearing apart from confirming his employment and residence in Chesterfield Township, where he said he lives with his wife and children. He requested a court-appointed attorney.

A letter sent to parents in the New Haven Community Schools District indicated that Turner was placed on leave from coaching until further notice. New Haven Superintendent Barbara VanSweden added that the safety and well-being of students would remain the district’s top priority.

“That’s always a priority for a school district. Of course, we’re cooperating with the Warren Police Department as they conduct their investigation,” VanSweden said Feb. 5. “We also have extra counselors available in our school this week, just to make sure that the kids are feeling safe at school.”

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said the case is “disturbing at so many levels.”

“As a parent who has kids that play sports, you place a sacred trust in those coaches to ensure that, you’re trusting them that your kids are going to be safe and taught, and are going to make it through tough games and tough times. Coach Turner violated that trust in every way possible, and the worst way possible. We’re going to do everything we can to hold him accountable for this.”

Smith said police and prosecutors need to hear from anyone else with knowledge of other incidents involving Turner. He said investigators are concerned there may be more victims.

“When you see this kind of behavior in broad daylight that’s been going on, we’re all worried about it,” Smith said. “Obviously it speaks to his character, but it also speaks to the fact that he’s grooming these kids by coaching them.

“Generally how it works in these cases, and I’ve prosecuted so many of these sexual assault cases with kids, is that you never find the first victim. You just find the most recent victim, and if there’s more victims out there, we want to know.”

Speaking anonymously to shield the victim and protect the family’s privacy, a family member of the victim, a police officer, told reporters after the hearing that he missed what he now looks back on as warning signs in Turner’s behavior.

“We were lied to. We trusted him with (her) safety... He was her coach. We trusted him for many years,” he said. “It’s a huge shock to us. We did not expect this from someone of his stature. We had a high level of respect for him and his family.”

According to Michigan law, the legal age of consent to sexual activity is 16. However, third-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15-year felony, allows for the prosecution of cases involving victims who are at least 16, but younger than 18 years old, if the suspect is a school employee.

Turner was ordered to appear in the 37th District Court before Judge John Chmura for a probable cause conference at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 14. A preliminary examination was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 21.

Anyone with information about the case or other allegations involving Turner can reach the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Cpl. Timothy Kulhanek, at (586) 574-4705.