Burke sentencing

Former Napoleon High School coach and teacher Randy Burke enters the courtroom Wednesday prior to his sentencing on gross sexual imposition and sexual imposition charges.

A former Napoleon High School coach and teacher was sentenced Wednesday afternoon in Henry County Common Pleas Court after being found guilty last month on sexual imposition charges, and was also classified as a Tier I sexual offender.

Randy Burke, 56, of Hamler must register with the Henry County sheriff within three days and must also register if he moves, finds employment elsewhere or secures temporary housing that will last more than 14 days. He must also notify the sheriff if he changes vehicles.

He must also verify his information on an annual basis for 15 years. Tier I is the lowest tier in Ohio.

Burke was sentenced by Henry County Common Pleas Court Judge John Collier to five years of community control and 180 days incarceration at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio (CCNO) with work release.

Last month, a jury found him guilty on one count of gross sexual imposition, a fourth-degree felony, and two counts of sexual imposition, third-degree misdemeanors.

Burke was sentenced to 30 days jail on each of the misdemeanor charges, but those will run concurrent to the sentence given on the felony charge.

In addition, he received a total fine of $4,500. He will be eligible for good time credit at CCNO. He also must be evaluated for sexual offense counseling while on community control and comply with any treatment recommendations provided.

If Burke fails to follow the terms of community control, he could face up to 18 months in prison with credit for time served at CCNO.

Collier stayed the execution of the sentence for two weeks to allow Burke time to indicate to the court whether he intends to appeal or not. He has 30 days to make the actual appeal.

If he does not indicate a desire to appeal, Burke will be required to report to CCNO by Sept. 18.

In handing down the sentence, Collier said he took into account the work the jury put into the case.

“I have great respect for the work that jury did,” Collier said. “I will tell you that jury worked for six and half hours to come up with this verdict. I would not do anything to disrespect the work that jury did.”

He pointed out Burke asked for a trial by a jury of his peers, and that jury rendered the guilty verdicts. There were nine other sexual imposition counts for which the jury rendered not guilty verdicts.

Collier also said there were a variety of factors in the case that made it unusual. He said in nearly 25 years as a judge, he received the largest number of letters prior to a sentencing.

“This includes murder trials,” the judge said.

He added the majority of the letters classified Burke as an outstanding coach and a caring person. Others described him as not a good person, creepy and making insulting comments.

In addition, prior to this case, Burke had no criminal record, not even a traffic ticket.

Prior to sentencing, Collier also heard from parents of the two girls involved in the counts in which Burke was found guilty. They spoke about how the their daughters have trust issues and have sought counseling as a result of their experience with Burke.

They also talked about how difficult the decision to come forward was to make.

“These girls had an event in their life that made them feel uncomfortable and violated,” said one of the mothers. “They could have sat back and thought this is normal behavior, or they could tell someone they felt would listen and be able to discuss options on how to proceed.”

She added they knew they would likely face bullying, public shaming and the possibility of loved ones challenging their decision to speak out about what happened.

“Their lives will be forever changed for doing what is right,” the mother added.

“What we now know from this trial is that the behavior of Randy Burke has been going on as far back as 2009,” she said.

She referred to Burke being warned about inappropriate touching and comments by two different athletics directors, in 2009 and 2016. The latter warning actually resulted in Burke not being hired back as cross country coach, but the Napoleon Area City Schools Board of Education later changed its decision and rehired Burke.

“I wanted to urge you, sentencing-wise, to go as far as possible,” said the father of another one of the girls.

“She wanted me to say it has impacted her,” he added. “We’re working through some of that with her, as far as trust.”

He also said the family has lined up a counselor to meet with her and provide assistance.

“I can tell you, just from personal experience, any time you suffer some sort of loss or something that is an emotional impact, you should never hesitate to engage professionally,” Collier said. “And early is better than later.”

The father added his daughter stressed she felt it was important to end the cycle here.

“I guess the big thing is protect the kids and don’t have the cycle continue,” the father said. “She (his daughter) was perfectly happy running cross country and doing her stuff and certainly didn’t go looking for trouble, it found her.”

Henry County Prosecutor Gwen Howe-Gebers commended all the girls for coming forward. She added they have all at one time or another sought out counseling.

“Yes, they are strong, because they had to be to come forward,” Howe-Gebers said. “Does it mean because they are strong they have not been affected, absolutely not.”

She also said the trial was not about coaches hugging athletes for a job well done, but about inappropriate touching between a coach and a female athlete. She also reiterated Burke had been warned twice before about such behavior.

Howe-Gebers said the girls involved in the case “just want to move on,” but added it has been difficult to do so.

“They want to get on without hearing people in the background calling them liars, or adults, including a current coach, who say they are liars or they’re making it up or too dramatic, or telling them ‘I don’t trust 90% of the girls on the team and I won’t risk my coaching career for their entertainment.’ That’s what they are going through yet today.”

Howe-Gebers also commended current NHS Athletics Director Andy Hamm for listening to the concerns brought to him and taking action, as well as the Napoleon Police Department for following up on the complaints.

Burke’s attorney, Scott Coon, pointed out the court heard from several people, including young women, who thought Burke was a great coach and made a positive difference in their lives.

“They were touched in a similar manner by coach Burke and they were not offended by it,” Coon said.

He pointed out a number of parents also saw the touching and were not offended by it, and that it happened out in the open and not behind closed doors.

“It’s a matter of perception,” Coon said.

“I feel bad about the whole situation,” Burke said. “I’m still shocked and amazed at how it turned out. I wish we had had better communication with each other.”

He said he always wants the best for those he coaches and teaches.

“I hope all of us can overcome this situation and move on and make this world a better place,” Burke said.

Email comments to briank@northwestsignal.net

I started at the Northwest Signal in 1994 and became editor in 2004. I graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1994.

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