Crime - Sacto 911

Sentencing delayed for man accused of abusing student-athletes

Despite an anticipated plea agreement, a Placer County judge agreed Wednesday to set a December sentencing date for the man accused of abusing students at his fledgling basketball academy.

In a court appearance, Francis Amiteye Ngissah, was granted his request for a psychological evaluation despite the assertion from Placer County Deputy District Attorney Lisa Botwinik that the evaluation is a useless sentencing delay because the information would be used only to make an appropriate placement by the Department of Corrections.

Ngissah is facing six felony counts of corporal injury to a child, six felony counts of false imprisonment, three misdemeanor counts of child molestation, three misdemeanor counts of child abuse, one count of battery, as well as several financial crimes. He is acting as his own attorney against the abuse charges, and public defender Erik Beauchand is handling the financial crimes charges.

“The people really want to fast-track this,” Botwinik told Superior Court Judge Colleen Nichols, referring to the prosecution.

Botwinik appeared frustrated during the hearing, and at one point buried her head in her hands.

Ngissah was arrested in January 2013 after four students at his CCSE Preparatory Academy told the Roseville Police Department that they were forced to stand in a corner, restrained with zip ties and sometimes had clothespins clamped on their nipples as punishment. Ngissah was later accused of forgery and fraud in connection with the purchase of furniture with bad checks.

Beauchand said Ngissah has agreed to a 10-year sentence and would be required to register as a sex offender under the negotiated agreement.

Dressed in county-issued orange, Ngissah displayed the oratory skill that might be expected of someone apparently able to start a school without the means to fund it.

“I’m ready to go today,” Nichols said at one point, questioning the logic in delaying sentencing.

Ultimately, she set the sentencing for Dec. 17. Ngissah had pushed for more time.

The academy opened in 2012 with several international students, but the reality never lived up to the dreams promised on the school’s website. For yearly tuition of $10,000 – plus an additional $5,000 for live-in students – the school said it would help student athletes get accepted into elite college basketball programs.

Students lived, and were taught in, a rented six-bedroom home and practiced basketball at a local gym.

The athletes did not play against other area high schools but were scheduled to play games and in tournaments against other specialized basketball schools throughout the country.

Only a handful of games were played before the team’s coach quit, saying he hadn’t been paid. The school was closed after Ngissah was arrested.

Amy Gordon, a tutor who first reported the abuse, later took in three of the boys. She said earlier that she and the young men were looking forward to having the issue behind them. She expressed disappointment with the slow progress of resolving the case. Those young men now live out of the region.

Call The Bee’s Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @NewsFletch.

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