THE WOODLANDS, Texas – A Montgomery County softball coach was arrested last week after being accused of sexually assaulting a teenager he coached, authorities said.
Juan “Manny” Corona, 44, who is also known as “Coach Manny,” was arrested Wednesday and charged with three counts of sexual assault of a child. He was arrested at his home on Jan. 3 and has been in jail since.
Capt. Dan Zientek, of the Montgomery County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office, said Corona has been coaching for about 25 years and 17 of those years were in Montgomery County.
Authorities said he has been giving private lessons at the South Montgomery County Softball League. In some cases, Corona would pick up the children from school and take them to their lessons, Zientek said.
Zientek said Corona sexually assaulted a 14-year-old during one of the private practices after picking her up from school. Corona would threaten the victim and said something would happen to her or she wouldn’t get playing time if she told anyone about the encounter, Zientek said.
"These kids love to play sports, and it's actually one of the control factors that many of these predators use is that, ‘If you don't do what I say, you'll get kicked off the team,’ and in our mind, that makes no sense at all, but to them, it's that important to be on the team,” Zientek said.
Investigators found about the alleged sexual assaults that happened in May and August from another player.
"Another player that was traveling to practice with our victim and Coach Manny said the coach decided to stop at the store and buy both of these girls alcohol,” Zientek said.
He said the other player’s parents found out about it, and that’s when the victim’s parents started asking their child questions, according to Zientek.
Authorities said Corona admitted to giving the girls alcohol, but dodged questions about sexual assault.
Investigators said they believe there may be more victims, given the amount of contact Corona had with children during his time as a coach.
Since Corona was publicly accused, four more people came forward with sexual assault accusations against Corona.
One of the new victims said they were sexually assaulted continually starting in 2002, when they were 12 years old. Evidence recovered at Corona's house corroborated the victim's statement, including video and photos.
Due to the new accusations, Corona will face an additional charge for production of child pornography.
Authorities are still interviewing the other three people who came forward.
Authorities said they acknowledge the softball community is very tight-knit, but hope that doesn’t deter people from coming forward.
"That's why we want to get this out -- to let the parents know, and let the kids know that this is unacceptable,” Zientek said.
Authorities didn’t say which team the victim is on, because they do not want to identify her, but did said the team practiced at the Gene Campbell fields in Conroe.
The South Montgomery Girls Softball League board of directors released the following statement on Wednesday:
"SMGSL is aware of the recent arrest of, and allegations against, Juan “Manny” Corona. We are shocked and saddened to hear this news. We would like to confirm that SMGSL is not affiliated with Mr. Corona.
"The SMGSL batting cages had been available for use by the public on a first come, first served basis, and Mr. Corona merely utilized our batting cages in this respect.
"SMGSL requires that all managers, assistant coaches and others affiliated with SMGSL complete and pass a background check from USA Softball’s ACE program (Aspire, Challenge, & Encourage). We have numerous private instructors on our website, and Mr. Corona has never been listed.
"SMGSL is heartbroken over this news. We have been in communication with local authorities and will continue to fully cooperate with their investigation to assist in any way possible.
"This is much bigger than softball and SMGSL condemns the alleged actions in the strongest possible terms. We convey our deepest sympathies and prayers to all impacted by this horrific news and related events."
Corona is being held in jail on a $300,000 bond.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Constable’s Office at 281-364-4211.