Ascension Parish Council members argue over youth coach accused of child molestation

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Ascension Youth Basketball Association has been providing youth basketball for decades in the parish.

During the Nov. 17 recreation committee meeting of the Ascension Parish Council, members argued over the appearance of a youth coach accused of child molestation at a basketball event for children.

WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge originally reported that the accused individual was working with Ascension Youth Basketball Association at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.

The television station's report included a photograph purported to be the accused man surrounded by what appeared to be several children who had their faces blurred to conceal their identities.

According to published reports, the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office arrested Jermaine Miles in November 2019 on five counts of molestation of a juvenile. At the time, the Sheriff's Office reported it had received a complaint Nov. 13, 2019, that involved three different juveniles.

According to the 2019 reports, Miles had been listed as a "gym commissioner" on the AYBA website.

Ascension Parish Jail online records show Miles had been released on a bond of $50,000 from the arrest two years ago.

Carl Seiner, a former LSU basketball player who said he has run the AYBA program for close to 35 years, told the committee members he was not at the Nov. 13 event due to a medical issue.

Seiner said had he been there he would have asked Miles if his case was resolved. 

"If he would have said no, I would have asked him to go home," Seiner said.

He went on to point out that Miles and his attorney claim there is no restriction on his bond.

Seiner further said he was not aware of Miles being arrested after attending the weekend event.

He also said some have been upset over the matter.

"As soon as we found out, I called him and told him he is not to show up to any of the gyms for practice, games, or be at all involved with AYBA until this is resolved," Seiner said.

Council member Aaron Lawler said several parents have contacted him and informed him that Miles had been working with 9-year-olds.

"AYBA is representing the parish in this. And we have somebody with these kind of charges that was never told not to come around until he did? That's not acceptable," Lawler said.

Member Travis Turner said an individual is innocent until proven guilty, and there was no reason for Miles not to be there unless it was a condition of his bond.

"Now, if he's convicted, that's something totally different. I know Aaron is shocked, I'm shocked too," Turner said.

Lawler and Turner are both attorneys.

Lawler countered by saying a teacher would be asked to step down during an investigation into a crime against children. He also cited examples of professional sports figures being asked to "walk away" due to accusations of criminal activity.

"If we don't hold our children in a high enough standard that we can't ask a gentleman to walk away that's been accused of molesting children - that we don't think that it's proper to keep him away - and if we have to notify you that he is the type of person who shouldn't be coaching youth basketball, then I don't think you should continue to handle youth basketball in Ascension Parish," Lawler said to Seiner and his wife, who both volunteer to oversee the program.

Lawler went on to point out liability issues of AYBA's registration as an entity.

"Wow... I'm shocked. I'm absolutely shocked," Lawler said.

Turner followed by saying he thought it was disingenuous of Lawler to attack people who volunteer.

"If you just want to grandstand, just grandstand for the TV, but don't attack people who are volunteering their time to work for the parish," Turner said.

He went on to say Lawler was trying to "put on a show" for the television and newspaper coverage of the meeting.

Turner then accused Lawler of lying about not knowing if the AYBA was registered as a nonprofit organization or otherwise.

Later in the discussion, Chief Administrative Officer John Diez asked Seiner if Miles was told to attend.

"So, this is not something you asked him to do?" Diez asked about the youth basketball event.

"No," Seiner answered.

Seiner went on to say the program currently has anywhere from 62 to 65 coaches. 

At the conclusion of the discussion, member Joel Robert suggested exploring a partnership with law enforcement on conducting background checks of coaches.