The defense attorney for a former Tuolumne Christian school coach accused of sexually abusing female student-athletes in the 1990s immediately asked whether any of the allegations against her were true when she took the stand Thursday morning.
“No,” responded Mona McGrady, whose trial in Tuolumne County Superior Court stretched into its eleventh day on Thursday.
Her attorney, Clint Parish of Sonora, followed with another inquiry about whether she was gay or has ever been in a gay relationship.
“No,” McGrady responded again.
Her testimony came Thursday as the defense sought to provide an alternative narrative to multiple prosecution witnesses who accused McGrady of child sexual abuse.
McGrady described the closeness of her relationships with teenage students as “investing in people.” Her decision to make these investments, she added, was founded on three core tenets: faithfulness, availability and teachability.
Guided by a supervisor’s advice, she also said one of the central aspects of her mentorship was “appropriate touch.”
The first student she described in detail was April Monroe, a former Mother Lode Christian School student who was in eighth grade in 1991. They grew closer throughout her high school career and Monroe later moved in with McGrady after a near-fatal car crash in 1996. McGrady said she visited her every day for three weeks and saw her frequently after during rehabilitation.
Previous witness testimony said McGrady was seen giving Monroe massages that some considered inappropriate. McGrady testified that she did give Monroe massages and sometimes Monroe was wearing a sports bra.
McGrady drew a contrast between the personalities of Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, but said she was equally invested in them during their time as student-athletes at Mother Lode Christian School.
Jane Doe 2 was “significantly shy, awkward and insecure” while Jane Doe 1 “walked with confidence,” she said.
Parish methodically outlined each sports season in each of Jane Doe 1’s four years at Mother Lode Christian, inquiring of McGrady the nature of her relationships with the confidential witnesses at each specific time.
McGrady diminished her relationship with Jane Doe 1 as just a student-teacher mentorship in contrast to the confidential witness’ earlier testimony, which was that their relationship escalated from occasional sexual encounters to a secret relationship.
With both confidential witnesses however, McGrady professed a closeness that was expressed through devotional prayer and occasional kisses on the cheek or head.
“I showed my affection for Jane Doe 1 by giving her hugs when I saw her. I’m a touchy person,” McGrady said.
She also acknowledged visiting Jane Doe 1 in Modesto after Jane Doe 1 left Mother Lode Christian School.
“It’s what I feel is a very normal thing for me to do for kids that left Mother Lode Christian,” she said.
Her testimony also made deliberate contrasts to Jane Doe 1’s recollection of specific details — such as when she participated in certain sports, where and when the teams made out-of-county trips, and who was present during the alleged sex acts.
McGrady denied any sex acts between them while on Jane Doe 1’s senior trip to Hawaii in 1998 and also said the girl’s parents would have been aware of her being there because they were present at planning meetings.
Jane Doe 1’s mother testified earlier in the trial she was not aware McGrady was on the trip until recently.
McGrady also denied any sexual contact between her and Jane Doe 2 in Chicago on the way back from a church conference in Toronto as Jane Doe 2 testified to earlier in the trial. She also added that she remembered two people staying in the room with them.
“It was late and it was a long travel day, so I slept,” McGrady said.
She acknowledged being with Jane Doe 2 at the school “often and frequent” when Jane Doe 2 was 16 and also said she spoke to her on the phone about three times a week.
Many of the charges against McGrady are related to “lewd or lascivious acts with a child 14 or 15 years old” and span a variety of locations.
McGrady was confronted twice about the sexual assault allegations and on both occasions she said she denied them.
“I did not do the things you accused me of,” she recalled saying in 2014 when accused by both confidential witnesses.
The defense also recited previously given testimony into the court record from McGrady’s daughter, Katie, who was unavailable to appear in court because she was out of the country.
She testified that she never witnessed any inappropriate behavior with her mother and other students while she was also a young student at Mother Lode Christian School.
Defense witness Mary Beth Sponsler, McGrady’s friend and the wife of former Mother Lode Christian School athletic director Seth Sponsler, testified McGrady acted as a well-intentioned mentor to the confidential alleged victims and to another older student named April Monroe.
“I have consistently observed her to be very modest,” she said of McGrady.
Hovatter inquired about her knowledge of the accusations and the conditions surrounding them, such as McGrady’s locked office door, signed contracts limiting McGrady’s exposure to students and coaches sleeping in the same bed with athletes.
“Wouldn’t that creep you out?” Hovatter asked repeatedly of the shared sleeping arrangements.
Sponsler said she would not be uncomfortable with students and teachers sharing sleeping arrangements.
Parish will continue with his examination of McGrady on Friday morning.
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at email@example.com or (209) 588-4526.