Gymnastics coach faced sex abuse allegations before

A local gymnastics coach and sports photographer accused of filming his students in changing rooms without their knowledge was previously sued for sexual abuse in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2000.

Before coming to Southern Oregon, Jeffrey Scott Bettman, 54, was a gymnastics teacher for more than 20 years for the Santa Barbara Spirals, a youth gymnastics team once run by the University of California, Santa Barbara.

A civil complaint was filed against Bettman and the University of California Regents, the university system board, in July 2000, according to an online case index from the Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

The complaint was for sexual abuse, according to University of California Regents meeting minutes from September 2000.

The case went to trial and the court dismissed the charges, a representative from the Regents said.

Further details about the case could not be obtained Tuesday, but a former Spirals gymnast coached by Bettmen in the 1990s said she remembers that no judgment was reached against him in the case.

Brie Zentil, now 35, said that the parents of two young girls sued Bettman and the university board over accusations of inappropriate conduct with the two girls, which Zentil said were between 10 and 12 years old at the time.

"At the time, there was not enough proof, so he was allowed to continue coaching," said Zentil, who was shocked to hear about the new charges against her former coach.

Bettman was arrested earlier this month, then arraigned last week on 10 counts each of first- and second-degree encouraging child sex abuse. He was ordered to stay away from minors and from gymnastics facilities in Grants Pass and Medford, according to court records.

Bettman has a preliminary court hearing set for Dec. 5.

He was one of several people targeted in an October sting operation by the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force after police discovered Bettman's Internet Protocol address had downloaded child pornography images.

Bettman became the focus of the investigation after investigators realized his connection to the gymnastics clubs.

Bettman left Santa Barbara shortly after he was sued in 2000, and coached at the Southern Oregon Gymnastics Academy in Medford from 2003 to 2008, when he was fired for undisclosed reasons.

Bettman has also worked at Ultimate Sports Gymnastics in Grants Pass and as a sports photographer.

Zentil said that as a teenager on Bettman's team, she had a good experience with him and to her knowledge he never filmed her or any of her teammates.

"I am deeply saddened to hear of his behavior," said Zentil. "I've been struggling with the news of his arrest because I did have a good experience with him as a coach."

— Teresa Ristow

Read more in the Mail Tribune on Wednesday.

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