A well-known water polo coach in Southern California was convicted on Thursday of nearly two dozen felonies stemming from allegations by about a dozen women who accused him of sexually assaulting them as teenagers.
An Orange County Superior Court jury found 46-year-old Bahram Hojreh guilty on 22 counts of sexually assaulting nine female victims between the ages of 14 and 17 after he counseled for a little less than three days. Press telegram reported.
The felony convictions included sexual assault, sexual penetration and lewd acts against a minor, as well as a misdemeanor assault conviction against a tenth woman.
Hojreh was acquitted of a charge of indecent assault in relation to the 10th victim.
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Two other women testified at Hojreh’s trial, but their specific allegations were not part of the charges.
A group of 15 alleged victims and their families were present in court during the sentencing and Press-Telegram reported that one of the elderly relatives in the courtroom began crying as Hojreh and was taken into custody.
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For nearly a quarter of a century, Hojreh has touted himself as a coach who “helped develop several Olympians.” Until January 2018, he served on the board of directors of the local Southern California section of USA Water Polo, the governing body for water polo in the United States.
Hojreh, who also ran the International Water Polo Club in Los Alamitos, California, and taught at Kennedy High School, faced allegations that he abused the young girls underwater by twisting their nipples, touching their genitals and touching them having his fingers penetrated under their bathing suits during one-on-one training sessions.
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“Every single one of them wanted to play in the Junior Olympics, play in college, maybe play in the Olympics one day,” Assistant District Attorney Raquel Cooper said. “And he was the one who told them he could take them there. He knew his players naturally trusted him. He knew these teenagers knew he was the key to getting them into college. And he took advantage of that.”
The dozen teenagers who accused Hojreh settled a civil lawsuit with USA Water Polo in 2021 that earned them nearly $14 million in settlements.
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“We have heard the plaintiffs’ statements, and their allegations are heartbreaking,” USA Water Polo CEO Christopher Ramsey said in a statement at the time. “We hope that with this they can start a new chapter in their lives.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report