BRADENTON -- The State Attorney's Office will not file charges against a Sugg Middle School physical education coach after allegations he inappropriately touched three female students.
The Manatee County School District also conducted its own administrative investigation to determine if any district policies had been violated by the coach, Brian Stephens. He had been reassigned during the investigations.
"The administrative investigation has concluded, and Mr. Stephens is being returned to Sugg Middle School," school district spokesman Mike Barber said Tuesday.
On March 4, investigators were called to the school a few hours after an eighth-grade female student approached an assistant principal during her lunch hour and said she had been touched in her breast area by the coach, Brian Stephens.
The Bradenton Police Department investigated the allegations and a month later recommended the State Attorney's Office charge Stephens with three counts of lewd and lascivious battery.
Stephens was reassigned from his position at the school
while criminal and administrative investigations were ongoing.
After weeks of investigation, the State Attorney's Office decided to take no action in the case.
"Based upon the above facts and surrounding circumstances -- the inconsistencies, the lack of corroborative evidence, the lack of evidence to prove lewd intent ... no charges will be filed as there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal offense," Assistant State Attorney Julie Binkley wrote in a memo.
Defense attorney Brett McIntosh made a statement on Stephens' behalf.
"This is not a case of insufficient evidence. This is a case of fabricated allegations. Mr. Stephens and I went to the police immediately after these allegations and insisted on giving a statement in the hope of expediting the case," McIntosh said. "He is glad it's over, but he is extremely unhappy that it took so long. He appreciates the support of his family and friends."
According to the state attorney's memo, the two girls who made the allegations had been wearing inappropriate shirts.
Stephens told police that another student had made him aware of one of the girl's shirts, and he spoke to the girl about it being inappropriate before notifying her PE coach. The other PE coach confirmed this to police.
One shirt said "run for the boobs" on the front and appeared to have an advertising to a bar/restaurant on the back. The other said "sleeping with sirens" on the front, said to be the name of a band.
One of the girls later claimed there were was another victim, according to the memo. The third girl denied anything inappropriate during a forensic interview, but later told her father Stephens had touched her.
When subpoenaed, the girl and her father did not show up or make further contact with detectives.
The three girls making allegations against Stephens were best friends.
Child Protective Services was called to the school the day the allegations were made. CPS has since closed its case, finding there was no substantiated sexual abuse and witness and victim statements were inconsistent.
"The investigation done by CPS revealed that there are no real issues with Coach Stephens at the school; he does an appropriate job and interacts well and in an appropriate manner," Binkley wrote.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.