Swim coach arrested again, accused of molesting boy over 3 years
Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 at 10:05 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 25, 2014 at 10:21 p.m.
A teacher and part-time swim coach has been arrested on allegations that, over the course of several years, he sexually battered one boy he coached and coerced another into taking nude photographs and sexually explicit videos of himself.
Gainesville police say it's likely additional victims will be identified as their investigation continues.
Joseph Michael Diaz, 31, of 3003 NW 30th Terrace, was arrested Friday at 1:15 p.m. — his second arrest within 24 hours in connection with the unfolding string of allegations. He is a behavioral resource teacher for kindergarten through fourth grade at High Springs Community School and was a part-time swim coach at Makos Aquatics Club of Gainesville.
Diaz first was arrested Thursday afternoon after one teenage boy told detectives with the Gainesville Police Department that Diaz had pushed him to take inappropriate photos and videos of himself using Diaz's cellphone. Diaz bonded out of jail early Friday morning, but by Friday afternoon another teenage boy, slightly younger than the first victim, had come forward with additional allegations, this time involving sexual contact, and Diaz was rearrested.
That younger teen alleged that, during a three-year period, he was sexually battered by Diaz, police reported.
The boy said Diaz started behaving inappropriately three years ago when he began touching the boy's private area when the two of them were together, police reported. That conduct later escalated into Diaz removing the boy's clothes and sexually battering him, police allege.
The boy described two incidents during which he repeatedly told Diaz, “no,” and tried to get away from him, but the boy told detectives that Diaz continued to molest him. The boy said the incidents occurred several times a month over the three-year period, police reported.
The boy told detectives that Diaz instructed him not to say anything or tell anyone about the incidents because, if he did, the boy would get in trouble. Diaz declined to speak with detectives regarding the allegations, the report said.
The investigation into the allegations involving the younger teen is ongoing, and detectives reported that they have identified two more incidents in which Diaz might have engaged in sexual conduct or sexual promotion of minors involving the children he coached.
Diaz was booked into the Alachua County jail on a charge of sexual battery of a victim under 12 years old in connection with the allegations and remained jailed Friday evening.
Diaz's first arrest in connection with the sexual allegations came Thursday afternoon on a bench warrant on charges of cruelty toward a child by directing the sexual performance by a child and possession of child pornography.
Police were alerted Wednesday by Department of Children and Families officials that a confidential report had been filed with the agency saying a teenage boy was involved in an inappropriate relationship with Diaz, GPD spokesman Ben Tobias said in an email.
The boy told police that Diaz was his athletic coach when he began to interact with him outside of coaching. Diaz began joking with him during this time about male genitalia in a sexual nature, Tobias said.
Police allege that, during the course of the relationship, Diaz asked the boy multiple times over the past four years to take nude photos and sexually explicit videos of himself using Diaz's cellphone. At this point, Investigators believe there was no sexual contact between Diaz and the boy, Tobias said.
Diaz was booked into the Alachua County jail Thursday at 4:15 p.m. but was released Friday at 3:15 a.m. after posting $65,000 bail.
“We have physical evidence and statements that lead us to believe there may be more victims,” Tobias said Friday. “We are still in the process of identifying and interviewing those potential victims.”
Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said Diaz has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the criminal investigation. She added that law enforcement officials said they don't believe any students at High Springs Community School are involved.
The website SwimSwam first reported that Diaz was a coach at the Makos Aquatics Club of Gainesville. After his arrest, the club removed his biography from its website, but a cached version of the website from April 19 said Diaz had been a coach for six years and worked with the “Platinum Sharks” group, which is for advanced swimmers ages 10 and older who swim competitively.
Diaz's biography said that, after swimming competitively in his youth and working for a year under Canadian swim coach Cecil Russell, Diaz started coaching in 2000 for the Cooper City Comets. He later moved to Gainesville and graduated from the University of Florida in 2004 with a degree in recreation, parks and tourism.
Diaz is also a registered USA Swimming Coach and a member of the American Swimming Coaches Association, the website said.
“Joey currently serves as the Behavioral Resource Teacher at High Springs Community School,” the SwimSwam website said. “His passion to develop character is evident, both at school and on the pool deck.”
Betsy Condon, president of Makos Aquatics Club of Gainesville, said in a statement that the club had no prior knowledge of any inappropriate conduct by Diaz.
“The safety and well-being of our athletes is the highest priority for Makos Aquatics Club of Gainesville,” Condon said. “His employment was immediately terminated by our club and (we) will continue to work with the authorities on this matter and provide any information we can.”