MERIDEN — A former assistant coach of the Maloney High School wrestling team faces sexual assault charges after police said he had a relationship with a 16-year-old team member last year.
Joel Torres, 23, of 30 Griswold St., was charged with five counts each of second-degree and fourth-degree sexual assault.
Torres was arraigned in Meriden Superior Court on Tuesday. A judge lowered bond from $100,000 to a promise to appear in court. Torres was ordered not to have contact with the complainant or their family.
Police began investigating last summer after the mother of the student made a report to police. Torres and the student told police they had a consensual sexual relationship. The student said they began contacting each other after the wrestling season ended.
Police spoke with Louis Bronk, assistant superintendent of Meriden schools, as part of the investigation. Bronk told police Torres was a student teacher at Platt High School for the fall 2019 semester, ending in December 2019.
Torres was also an assistant wrestling coach at Maloney High School for the 2019-2020 season.
Torres was hired on Nov. 15, 2019, with the wrestling season running from Dec. 18, 2019 through Feb. 29, 2020.
Bronk told police coaches are kept on unpaid retainer between seasons with a right of first refusal for the following season. Bronk said Torres “would have been expected to continue as assistant coach unless he exercised that right of refusal,” the warrant noted.
Torres told police because the relationship began after the wrestling season ended, he didn’t believe it was illegal. A message seeking comment from Torres was not immediately returned on Wednesday.
Torres sent an email to Superintendent Mark Benigni on July 15, 2020 resigning from his position as assistant coach, the warrant said. Police noted it appears the resignation was voluntary and unsolicited. Police also noted Torres sent the email the day after the relationship was discovered, the warrant said.
Bronk on Wednesday confirmed Torres is not currently employed by the district. He said between the wrestling seasons, coaches are not considered active employees unless they are working in some other capacity, which Torres was not.
“The District takes the criminal charges against Mr. Torres very seriously,” Bronk said in an email. “The District’s highest priority is the safety and well being of our students. Any conduct that compromises the safety of our students will not be tolerated. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement.”
Torres’ case was continued to July 20.