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Tuesday, Aug 14, 2018
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Parents sue Tampa football league, former coach accused of lewd conduct

The parents of two teens have filed a lawsuit against the Tampa Bay Youth Football League and the man accused of harassing and molesting them while he was their coach.

The parents say the organization and Davarius Durham were negligent and caused physical and emotional distress, according to the lawsuit.

Durham was arrested in April 2016 and awaiting trial on charges that include single counts of sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct and three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation.

The civil suit was filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court and seeks more than $15,000 in damages, which is standard to qualify the case for state court.

The lawsuit contends that the league failed to provide a "reasonably safe environment without hazards of psychological, physical, and mental injury to its minor members" and "exercise reasonable care in the supervision of its agents."

It also said the league did not adequately supervise, train or investigate its volunteers or the situation and states that it did not immediately report to the parents that any inappropriate misconduct occurred.

The parents are seeking damages to help pay for the medical costs for the physical and emotional trauma the boys incurred from the result of Durham’s abuse, according to the lawsuit.

RELATED: Tampa parks employee who coached youth football faces molestation charges

Prior to the arrest, Durham had spent five years working with children while employed by the Tampa Parks and Recreation Department and he spent two seasons coaching for the TBYFL from 2014-15. He was coaching the boys team, the Jaguars, when the abuse occurred, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states the two boys were enrolled in the football program between January 2015 to April 2016, and during that time Durham would continually touch the boys inappropriately and ask for nude pictures with promises of money. He would also take the boys on an "overnight field trip" to work out at Durham’s apartment complex then spend the night, according to court records.

Police said that between Dec. 12, 2015 and Feb. 29, 2016, Durham sent messages to the 15-year-old asking for inappropriate photos. The boy didn’t send him any.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said Durham repeatedly molested one of the 14-year-olds between January 2014 and February 2016 and the other 14-year-old between June and December 2015.

Durham started working for the city of Tampa in 2011 as a part-time rec leader, officials said. In August 2014 he was a part-time gymnastics instructor for the city, and by November 2014 he was full time, working in an after-school program with children.

Durham was arrested on April 8, 2016. He coached all three victims in football, police said, but it was unclear if he met all three through TBYFL. Police said he did not meet any of the victims through his city job.

"We’re very angry," TBYFL president Scott Levinson told the Times in 2016. "We’re angry because we did our due diligence, because we took in a volunteer, a city parks and rec employee, who deals with children."

Efforts to reach Levinson on Friday were unsuccessful.

Durham, now 29, was freed 10 days after his arrest from the Hillsborough County jail after posting bail, records show. But he was booked back into the jail on Aug. 30, 2016, and remains held there in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Times staff writer Sara DiNatale contributed to this report.

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