South Tampa News
Ex-Tampa Prep coach gets five years in voyeurism case
TAMPA - Coaches can develop a special bond with their athletes. Some youngsters are lucky enough to work with a legend like college basketball's John Wooden or college football's Eddie Robinson. "If you're unlucky, you get a Kimberly Brabson," said the father of a former Tampa Preparatory School swim team member. Brabson, the private school's former girls swim coach, was sentenced today to five years behind bars for secretly videotaping team members as they changed into swimsuits. His term will be followed by five years of probation."Your sentence is 10 years, whether probation or incarceration," said Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet A. Tharpe. "These young ladies will have to live with this for the rest of their lives. Their sentence is a lifetime. "Your actions Mr. Brabson are reprehensible at best. As a parent we have the right and expectation that our children will be safe when they are in school and you violated that." Prosecutors said the tape showed 21 incidents between January and September 2005 involving 19 girls in various stages of undress. Tharpe ordered all copies of the tape be destroyed. In exchange for Brabson's guilty plea to 10 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism, the state dropped 19 felony counts of promoting a sexual performance by a child. Although Brabson's conduct was disgusting, prosecutors said, the videotaping did not meet the legal requirements of the felony charge. Four years after Brabson's arrest, the victims wanted the case to end: some so they can move on with their life; others because the plea will speed up their pending lawsuits against the downtown school. Brabson, 33, refused to answer questions while the criminal case was pending. His punishment met with the approval of two fathers who pleaded for him to get jail time. "I think it was fair and the right message was sent," said one. "These were children." The other agreed. "I think it was a fair sentence in a very tough situation," he said. The Tampa Tribune is withholding the men's names to protect the identity of their daughters. Authorities said Brabson asked the girls to try on swimsuits under the pretext of ordering team wear. After two students complained, Brabson was suspended and told to seek counseling. School officials also called police, who discovered the videotape in his office. Brabson apologized at his sentencing, saying he didn't intend to hurt anyone. That outraged the victims' families, who noted the problems their daughters continue to confront. "Because of this coach, this teacher, this friend, this Judas," one father said. "Why didn't I see it?" another father asked. "Why didn't I protect my child?"
Reporter Tom Brennan can be reached at (813) 259-7698.