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Ex-coach at Tampa's Freedom High accused of sexual battery of student

Dwight Lamont Smith worked at Freedom High School.
Published Dec. 3, 2015

TAMPA — A former cross country and track coach at Freedom High School is accused of sexually battering a 17-year-old student while on a team trip to Gainesville in September.

Dwight Lamont Smith, 48, was arrested Monday on two counts of sexual battery of a victim 12 to 18 years old. The arrest warrant was issued from Alachua County, where Smith will likely stand trial.

The student, who was not identified, told the principal what happened on Nov. 12, according to Tampa police records. That was the day the school district said it fired Smith over an allegation that he had an inappropriate conversation with the student, according to district spokeswoman Tanya Arja.

Smith had worked for the district since 2009. His job as a special education aide, which paid $10.03 an hour, was temporary so his firing did not require School Board approval, Arja said.

He coached track and field and cross country as a volunteer. Arja said the principal called in the police after the 17-year-old student told him what happened.

A Tampa police report detailed the allegations the student made against Smith:

During a Sept. 19 cross country meet in Gainesville, Smith invited the student to his hotel room and gave her vodka and orange juice. Then Smith "told her he wanted to have sex with her," the report said, and asked her if "she was chicken."

The coach and student then had intercourse, the report said. After dinner, Smith returned to the room and texted the student to come back to his room, the report said, where they had intercourse again.

The student told police that the next weekend, during a Sept. 25-26 meet in Titusville, they engaged in intercourse in a hotel in Brevard County.

Then on Nov. 11, the report said, Smith showed up unannounced at the student's home while she was by herself. He kissed and fondled the student inside his car, the report said. The next day, the student went to the Freedom High principal.

That day, Nov. 12, police had the student call Smith and tell him that she was pregnant (she wasn't; it was a ruse) in a recorded phone call. Smith mentioned an abortion to the student, according to the report.

Minutes later, officers spoke to Smith personally at the school. He denied the student's allegations, the report said, though officers noted he was "sweating profusely and breathing very loudly."

Tampa police informed Gainesville police about the student's allegations. But it was not known Tuesday if Smith will also face charges in Brevard and Hillsborough counties.

The Tampa Bay Times requested a copy of the district's investigative file, but it was not available Tuesday.

The team's Facebook page — which had been peppered with pictures of Smith, along with happy birthday wishes — was taken down Tuesday.

Late that morning, after Tampabay.com posted news of the arrest, the school sent out automated phone calls to all parents, followed by a second call to all cross country and track parents.

"We learned today that Dwight Smith, our former volunteer girls cross country and track coach, was arrested last night," said the message by principal Kevin Stephenson.

"Law enforcement has information that he had an inappropriate relationship with a student. … Dwight Smith is no longer working at Freedom High School and was let go several weeks ago."

Arja said there was no disclosure to parents or students before Tuesday because district officials had to wait for law enforcement to complete its investigation.

Smith, who lives in Wesley Chapel, was booked into the Hillsborough County jail, where he is being held in lieu of $150,000 bail.

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