A former Rockford High School rowing coach who admitted to secretly recording female athletes in various locker rooms over a four-year period deserves a lengthy prison term for an “abhorrent breach of trust,’’ federal prosecutors contend.
Timothy Warren Vallier faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison for secretly recording high school girls; sentencing guidelines recommend a life sentence.
Investigators identified 62 victims; several are expected to attend Vallier’s sentencing hearing Wednesday, May 17 in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
Rockford Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael S. Shibler says he will also be in court and plans to make a statement prior to sentencing.
“What he did was inexcusable,’’ Shibler said. “He robbed these girls of their innocence. He deserves to be punished.’’
Indeed, several of the girls talked about the trauma they’ve experienced since the recordings came to light with Vallier’s arrest last July. Some of their comments are contained in the government’s 11-page sentencing memorandum filed last week.
“Crew is a place in which you build lasting bonds,’’ one said. “Bonds that make the pain of every stroke worth it. What Mr. Vallier did to us made the team grow apart.’’
Said another: “Timothy Vallier labeled me a victim as a result of his actions. That is a label that will always be with me now. This has damaged the way I am viewed by many of my peers.’’
Paranoia is a constant for another of the 62 victims.
“Will I ever feel safe again? Public restrooms, changing rooms – how am I supposed to be okay? I spiraled downward very quickly, leaving my happy and outgoing personality far behind.’’
In the sentencing memorandum, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Y. Mekaru asked for a “significant sentence commensurate with the massive scope of the offense, which reflects the abhorrent breach of trust.’’
“The victims include girls who should be readying for graduation, enjoying prom, competing in a sport they love, enjoying the pride in their accomplishments and anticipating summer vacation,’’ Mekaru wrote.
“Each has been forced to find her own way to cope,’’ he wrote. “For most, the lasting consequence will be the loss of trust.’’
For some victims, Vallier’s actions took away their team and sense of identity. The Rockford High School girls and boys rowing teams had national standing, with the Rockford boys winning the national championship in 2016 with Vallier as their coach.
“That source of pride and honor has been tainted with shame, anger, depression and anxiety,’’ Mekaru wrote.
Vallier, 30, was arrested in July after two recent Rockford High School graduates helping coach the school rowing team found a video camera in the team’s SUV that was under Vallier’s control.
He’d been secretly recording girls for 4-½ years, producing approximately 86 videos of minors at the Rockford High School Freshman Center and the rowing team’s boathouse beside the Grand River in Kent County’s Plainfield Township.
Vallier in September pleaded guilty to attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography.
The exploitation charge is punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison up to 30 years. Possession of child pornography is punishable by up to 20 years.
Prior to being hired by Rockford schools, Vallier worked at Meijer and then worked as a janitor at Forest Hills Public Schools between 2009 and 2012. He coached the Rockford High School crew team from 2009 to 2016 and worked at a private company that provided janitorial services, court records show.
“He was able to position himself as a trusted, upstanding member of the community with service to children,’’ Mekaru wrote. “Parents trusted him to supervise their children. He cannot be given ‘credit’ for being a good employee when that status helped him perpetrate the offense.’’
It was not a “one-time failure of judgment,’’ but a “deliberate and repeated course of conduct,’’ Mekaru wrote.
“He used one hole in the wall in the boathouse and drilled a second so he could video-record the girls naked. When he was not satisfied with the quality of the videos, he enlarged the holes with a file,’’ according to the government’s sentencing memorandum.
The videos were saved to Vallier’s computer. They were often an hour long, so he edited them down to the scenes he wanted, Mekaru wrote. Still images were created from the videos showing girls either naked or in various stages of undress.
“This was not an offense of opportunity or an isolated aberration,’’ Mekaru wrote. “The preparation, recording, editing, sorting and saving all demonstrate a concerted effort by Vallier to use the girls he coached to make his own pornography.’’
Family members describe Vallier as an intelligent, caring man who was always willing to help others.
Defense attorney Richard E. Zambon said his client had no criminal history prior to his arrest.
“Tim has never abused drugs or alcohol,’’ Zambon wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Tim’s mental health is good but he has suffered some depression since his incarceration.’’
Vallier’s “greatest regret in life’’ is his involvement in the criminal activity that led to federal charges, Zambon wrote.
“Tim is very concerned about the impact his conduct has had on the victims and has expressed great remorse for this,’’ Zambon wrote. “Tim has clearly accepted responsibility for his actions.’’
Vallier cooperated with investigators and gave a full statement admitting to his conduct, Zambon wrote. “To spare the victims any further suffering and embarrassment, Tim entered a guilty plea . . . thereby avoiding the specter of a public trial.’’
Although sentencing guidelines recommend a life term, Zambon said it would be “substantially unreasonable.’’
“Mr. Vallier’s history and characteristics do not call for such an outrageous result,’’ Zambon wrote in the sentencing memorandum. “A sentence in excess of the mandatory minimum of 15 years would unreasonably regard Mr. Vallier as the worst of the worst.’’
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