Jury sentences Hall for rape, sex abuse
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Former major league outfielder Mel Hall was sentenced to 45 years in prison Wednesday after being convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl he coached on an elite basketball team.
Hall was convicted on three counts of aggravated sexual assault and two counts of indecency with a child. Among his accusers during sentencing Wednesday were others who said he carried on inappropriate relationships with them.
Hall, 48, looked skyward and swayed back and forth as the verdict was read. One of his two daughters who testified on his behalf during the punishment phase sobbed.
Jurors reached the verdict on the punishment after about an hour of deliberating. They took about 90 minutes Tuesday to convict Hall. He must serve about 22½ years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.
After the verdict was announced, prosecutor Kim D'Avignon read a brief statement on behalf of the 12-year-old victim and other accusers.
"We believe that the verdict does on some level show that the jury understood," D'Avignon said. "They looked in these girls' eyes and said this is worth 40 years, and we agree with them."
The defense had argued in the sentencing phase of the trial that Hall was a good man who mentored a lot of athletes and had a lot of good still to do.
"For all the good this man has done in his life, it seems like this was an excessive verdict," defense attorney Brady Wyatt said after the verdict.
The prosecution's final witness during the punishment phase testified that she was 14 when Hall touched her inappropriately and told her he wanted to have sex with her. Late Tuesday, two women testified Hall sexually assaulted them when they were underage.
On Wednesday, a woman testified that Hall was her softball coach when, during an end-of-season pool party, he made lewd noises and grabbed her around the waist.
"He just grabbed me how I thought was inappropriate," said the woman, now 19. She said Hall also would watch her take batting practice and make crude comments and tell her he wanted to have sex with her.
Hall's ex-wife and two daughters testified on his behalf.
"My dad would not do that," said his daughter, Bianca Hall, who had to stop to compose herself throughout her emotional testimony.
Hall, who had been stoic and unemotional throughout most of the trial that began Monday, smiled and nodded as his daughter spoke of their relationship. When she become emotional while describing how much she loved and trusted him, Hall bit his lip and looked away.
During the trial this week, witnesses testified that Hall was impressed with the 12-year-old girl's talent and wanted to start a basketball team. The woman testified that Hall exposed himself to her and her younger brother at home, when their parents were away. The boy testified that he thought they were playing a game and never told his parents.
"I trusted him," the woman testified. "I honestly had no idea anything was inappropriate at the time. I looked up to him. I just thought this is how normal people act."
Hall's interaction with the girl progressed to inappropriate touching and him showing her how to perform oral sex, she testified. She said he also showed her pornographic movies at an apartment Hall shared with his girlfriend and their infant son.
The two women who testified Tuesday told similar stories of how he won their parents' trust and then charmed the young girls.
One said she was 15 and Hall was in his first season with the New York Yankees when the abuse began in 1989. The other testified that she was a 14-year-old basketball teammate of the 12-year-old victim when she was raped in 1999. Hall has been charged in that case.
Hall's 13-year major league career ended in 1996. He hit .276 with 134 home runs and 620 RBIs in a career that included stints with the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Yankees and San Francisco Giants. He also played four years in Japan.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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