Zachary Meints, a 23-year-old former Boulder youth hockey coach accused of sending thousands of sexual texts and Facebook messages to minors asking them for naked photos and encouraging "masturbation races," has pleaded guilty to one count of felony Internet sexual exploitation on Wednesday.
Meints was originally charged with five felony counts of Internet sexual exploitation of a child after being accused of sending "thousands" of explicit and inappropriate messages to youth, according to a recently unsealed arrest affidavit.
In exchange for the guilty plea to the single count of felony Internet sexual exploitation, the prosecution dropped the other charges, The Daily Camera reports.
Police say they were first notified about the allegations on September 28, 2011 and that initial rounds of interviews led them to 13 potential victims and witnesses, five of whom were under the age of 15 at the time.
In the affidavit Meints admits to challenging players on a couple occasions to "masturbation races" through communications on Facebook, and asked for photographic proof. Victims also told police that Meints would talk to them about using sex toys and pornography.
Although Meints would ask victims to send him pictures of themselves naked, Meints never sent pictures of himself or made physical advances, according to the Daily Camera.
When police confronted Meints, he said that he engaged in "locker room talk" and that he'd "jokingly" initiate the masturbation challenges.
7News reports that a mother of two boys who received text messages from Meintz said, "He was asking the boys to send him pictures of themselves and then offering, you know in exchange, money and paid porno sites." The mother said her sons ignored the messages and didn't say much about it until they were approached by the police.
When the scandal first broke, 9News discovered that a memo about the exploitation allegations was distributed to a team owner as well as "officers or directors of Boulder Hockey Club or Rocky Mountain Rough Riders" more than two months before parents were notified.
Meints was dismissed by the Boulder Hockey Club and fired from his Rough Riders assistant coach position when police bagan their investigation in September, and the club hired a counselor for the players at the club's own expense.
Meints' sentencing is scheduled for August 3, the former hockey coach could face as little as one year or as many as 12 years in prison.
As a reminder to parents, Boulder detectives offer these tips to ensure the safety of their children. Parents should pay attention to the following:
- Mood changes
- Declining school grades
- Sexualized behavior
- Secretive behavior
- Not sleeping or eating well
- Abnormal relationship with an adult
Parents who may be concerned about their child's welfare should monitor their cell phone and computer use. It's also a good idea to talk to kids about what kind of behavior is appropriate or inappropriate. And always, report anything suspicious to police.