Grand jury indicts Wager; New York police will not seek charges

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Staff report
A police department in New York will not investigate allegations against former Catawba College soccer coach Ralph Wager because of the state’s statute of limitations, according to a Webster Police Department spokesman.
Lt. Michael Chiapperini said investigators were notified of a “potential victim” earlier this month, but the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office told investigators it was too late to proceed with a case.
“No charges are going to be filed,” Chiapperini said.
The victim lives out of state, Chiapperini said, and no official report was filed.
“We never met with him,” he said.
A grand jury in Rowan County indicted Ralph Wager this week on charges of child molestation from more than 20 years ago.
Wager was arrested July 17 at his Charlotte home. He was charged with three counts of indecent liberties with a child, three counts of crimes against nature and three counts of first-degree sex offense of a child, all felonies.
The grand jury returned a true bill of indictment on Monday against Wager on all nine charges. The indictments were not released until this morning after they had been verified.
The victim came forward in May after searching Wager’s name on the Internet and discovering he was still involved with coaching youth soccer programs.
Wager, who was a coach for Steele Creek Soccer Club in Charlotte, has been suspended indefinitely from the N.C. Youth Soccer Association.
The victim told investigators the abuse happened multiple times throughout 1987, when he was 9 years old, and again in 1989.
A second person told Webster Police he was molested by Wager in the late 1960s when Wager lived near Rochester, N.Y.
Chiapperini said he wasn’t sure when the statute of limitations expired.
“There’s nothing from the 1960s that’s prosecutable in New York State unless it’s murder,” Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Sara Vanstrydonck said.
Vanstrydonck said she was not involved in the abuse allegations against Wager, but said she has worked with Webster Police in previous child abuse cases.
The state statute of limitations was changed in 2006, she said, to allow prosecutors to pursue charges in any child sex abuse claim five years after the initial disclosure to authorities from the child or five years from their 18th birthday.
But the change was not retroactive, Vanstrydonck said.
In fact, New York State prosecutors would not be able to file charges in the Rowan County case.
“We wouldn’t be able to process anything from the ’80s,” she said.
On Monday, Brandy Cook said the statute of limitations was not a factor in the Rowan County charges.
“I can tell you in North Carolina, for felonies, there is not a statute of limitations,” Cook said.
Investigators have requested through a court order that Catawba College make available records of all employees who worked at the college from 1983 to 1990, while Wager was employed there. Catawba is also to turn over Wager’s employee record.
The college says it will continue to cooperate with investigators.
The abuse is said to have occurred at Wager’s on-campus house and his office.
See Wednesday’s Post for more details.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.