A popular youth coach in Dover will be sentenced Thursday for statutory rape, but many in his community are standing behind the man, even defending the decision to allow him to continue coaching while he faced these serious charges.
William Polk, 46, by any measure an upstanding member of the Dover community, coaching youth lacrosse and basketball, even running for school committee in the wealthy town.
But prosecutors paint a different picture of the man. He was indicted in Norfolk County on two charges of statutory rape, accused of raping his then 15 year-old niece when she visited his Dover home nearly three years ago.
Despite the serious charges, support in Dover for Polk is so strong he was allowed to continue coaching, right up until his conviction late last month.
Thomas Spangenberg, an official with the Dover-Sherborn Youth Lacrosse League, said it was appropriate to allow Polk to continue coaching despite the charges hanging over his head.
“At this time I do believe that, Yes. I believe that if someone is accused they're not guilty. So we shouldn't say they're guilty just because they're accused,” he said.
Spangenberg said parents weren’t informed about the allegations after he was charged in 2008.
“I think that would have fed the wrong atmosphere for sure. I mean that would have presumed that he's guilty then. I think if we pulled him as a coach at that time, wouldn't that have made it worse?” he said.
Polks defense lawyer, Max Stern, says the judge in the case allowed his client to continue coaching as long as another adult was present.
Spangenberg and other supporters of Polk insist the coach is innocent, saying the jury that convicted him did not have all the facts.
“We all believe in the American justice system but it doesn't always work,” said Nate Van Duzer of Dover. “That's why there's an appeal process. That's why there's a higher court above that. And our hope and prayer is that while people dig in, understand the facts. Look at the family. Look at the fruit of the effort that Bill Polk has done over the years. That they'll hold off judgment,” he said.
More than one hundred people have written letters on Polk's behalf, and his supporters say they plan on showing up in force at his sentencing. They want the judge to let Polk remain free while he appeals.
Prosecutors say they will show a videotaped impact statement from the victim and her father. As for those who doubt whether Polk did it, a spokesman for Norfolk County District Attorney William R. Keating says, “An impartial jury heard all of the evidence and unanimously found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."