Former Duluth youth basketball coach sentenced in sex-assault case
DULUTH, Minn. - A former Salvation Army youth basketball coach who was found guilty in September of sexually assaulting two preteen girls will spend at least 12 years behind bars.
In sentencing Wendell Anthony Greene to a maximum guideline sentence, Judge Mark Munger cited Greene’s lack of remorse for the crimes.
“Mr. Greene, you just don’t understand that what you did is wrong,” Munger said. “You were placed in a position of trust by the Salvation Army, a fine institution that tries so much to help in the community. In one fell swoop, you breached the trust of the Salvation Army, the community, these girls, their mother and everyone who knows them.”
Greene, 37, was sentenced Monday in State District Court in Duluth to serve 18 years in prison, with the final six years to be served as supervised release. He will remain on conditional release for the rest of his life, and could be sent back to serve the remainder of the term if he violates any conditions of his release.
Thomas Skare, the public defender for Greene, called the sentence “excessive.”
“This is a harsh sentence given his lack of a prior criminal history,” Skare told the Duluth News Tribune outside the courtroom. “A bottom-guideline sentence would have been more appropriate.”
Greene was found guilty by a jury Sept. 18 of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Two sisters, who were 8 and 10 at the time of the assaults, testified that Greene had sexually abused them in his role as a coach and personal care assistant to the family.
The girls’ mother, in a written statement read in court today, said her daughters still suffer from the trauma of the abuse.
“If someone they had trusted could do this to her, who can they trust now?” she wrote. “Words cannot explain the hurt this has caused.”
In arguing for the maximum sentence, prosecutor Rebekka Stumme said the case was all about a violation of trust. She said Greene’s behavior suggests he is likely to reoffend.
“It’s concerning to the state that he has a lack of insight into what he did,” she said. “He is the victim here, according to Mr. Greene.”
Skare asked for a lesser sentence, arguing that he has no prior criminal history. Greene, a Marine and National Guard veteran, also suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result injuries suffered in Iraq, Skare said.
Greene’s parents, who traveled from Georgia, also spoke, pleading with Munger for leniency. His mother, Gayle Greene, said her son needs a second chance.
“I’m not sure what has happened, but I do know he says he is innocent,” she said. “I have trust in the court system and I ask for the mercy of the court to allow him to make a change.”
Wendell Greene Sr. characterized his son as a longtime advocate for youth in the community.
“He helped bring the community together, boys and girls,” Wendell Greene Sr. said. “He’s tried to do his best and help the community.”
Munger, however, cited Greene’s position of authority in pronouncing his sentence. He also addressed a second sexual-abuse case in which Greene is accused of sexually abusing another preteen girl. That girl also testified at the trial.
“You already know what she’s going to say (at a future trial),” Munger warned Greene. “You understand how she testified and how the jury weighed her testimony.”
At the sentencing hearing, Munger scheduled the second trial for April 22. Outside the courtroom, Skare declined to speculate on the resolution of that case. Greene faces first-degree and second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges.
Another former Salvation Army youth coach also is awaiting sentencing. Peter Jay Olson, a former basketball and baseball coach, pleaded guilty last month to two first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges for the alleged abuse of two preteen boys. Olson is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 25.
Tom Olsen | Forum News Service