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San Diego soccer coach accused of sexually assaulting teen player set to stand trial

The victim says 36-year old Daniel Valdez ruined her life after he groomed her when she was 15-years old.

SAN DIEGO — Update: On Wednesday, October 19 Daniel Valdez pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sex with a minor. The maximum penalty in the case, according to the District Attorney's Office is three years. A judge will decide the sentence at an upcoming hearing.

Jane Doe" just turned 16 years old when soccer coach Daniel Valdez contacted her and asked her to join his South San Diego club team the Atlante Futbol Club in the spring of 2018.

Jane, whose real name is confidential because she was a minor at the time, says the grooming began shortly after.

"He knew that I didn't have like a good support system," says Jane. "He knew that I was alone and that I didn't have a ride to practice. I didn't have a ride to the games. I didn't have the support system that everyone else had. He knew and he took advantage of that.

On Monday, October 24, Jane's former soccer coach, Daniel Valdez, now 36 years old, will stand trial on three felony sex assault charges including unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and oral copulation of a person under 18 years of age.

During his trial, Jane plans to face the man that she says used the sport she loved and preyed on her vulnerabilities for his sexual gratification a little more than four years ago.

"I really don't know what I will say to him," Jane told CBS 8. "I want to let him know that what he did to me was wrong."

Added Jane, "He ruined my life. Can't trust people. I can't move on from what happened. I feel like everything that comes up, meeting new friends or meeting new partners, it always comes back to those moments."

The Alleged Abuse

According to documents obtained by CBS 8, criminal investigators say Valdez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, communicated with the team of teenage girls on Snapchat and would drive the players, including Jane, to and from practices and games by himself.

Jane tells CBS 8 that he was the only coach, also the only adult, on the team.

"He stayed in contact with me because I was like, the one who helped him start the team," said Jane. "After that, things became more flirty. He started talking about sexual things and, um, after that, it just led to the point where, you know, physical things happened."

In May 2018, the then-30-year-old coach, according to a San Diego Police investigation, pulled his car over after a game and first kissed Jane.

Later that month, after already having had intercourse a number of times, Valdez allegedly got a hotel room at a Chula Vista motel on at least five occasions between May 2018 and March 2019.

Two months later, Jane says that her step-father found messages from Valdez on her phone and reported Valdez to police in July 2019.

During their investigation, San Diego Police Officers arranged a pretext call with Valdez. 

Reads the report, "We attempted a pretext call (three-way-recorded) with Valdez...When Valdez answered Doe told him, 'My mom knows that we had sex.' Valdez paused for a moment, then hung up the phone without verbally responding."

When police tried to interview Valdez, he refused to cooperate. 

After verifying that Valdez had booked hotel rooms and cross-referencing location data on Jane's phone, police arrested Valdez and the District Attorney filed formal charges on January 2020.

An Unsupervised Predator

As the criminal felony trial approaches, Jane is also demanding that the soccer leagues answer questions in a civil case she filed in August 2020.

Those questions include: How was Valdez allowed as the only coach on the team, with no other adults there to monitor him, and did the leagues do any background checks on Valdez before allowing him to be a coach?

Michael Hirman represents Jane in her civil lawsuit against Valdez, the Atlante Futbol Club, San Diego youth Soccer League, and United States Youth Soccer.

Hirman says the soccer leagues, on both the local level and the national governing body, failed to make sure Jane as well as others were safe by allowing Valdez to come on as a coach without the ability to conduct even a cursory background check.

"When you take someone that comes from another country, and certainly when they come into this country without authorization, how do you search their background?" Said Hirman. "That should be a red flag for every soccer club in San Diego County and beyond. How do you know that they haven't had a background in those countries?"

Hirman said Valdez is a Mexican National who is looking to gain legal residency here. 

Hirman says that the inability to do an adequate background check only adds to the fact that the club and the league allowed Valdez to coach teen girls completely unsupervised. Valdez, he says, was the only coach on the team.

"Most youth sports leagues know, or should know, that there are predators out there and they have to do everything they can to minimize it," said Hirman. "Every youth soccer parent in San Diego County should be asking themselves, could this happen to my child? Why was it that this coach was left on his own to supervise 16 and 17-year-old girls? Why was he transporting them in his own private vehicle? This could happen to any family, any child. And so it's mystifying to me. Why it is that there's only one adult on this team?"

Hirman says the soccer leagues have argued that Valdez was only a volunteer and was not paid which means they are not responsible.

"It doesn't matter whether he's getting paid or not," says Hirman. "Here's an adult who was put in charge of 15, 16, and 17-year-old girls. Whether he is a volunteer or gets paid doesn't make any difference. He's the one that is supposed to be the adult in the room. He's the one that is supposed to protect the kids from precisely this sort of behavior."

CBS 8 reached out to attorneys for U.S Youth Soccer and Atlante San Diego Futbol Club for a response to those questions as well as others. We did not receive a response.

Valdez's criminal attorney also declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Jane says she will try to continue to put the past behind her, a difficult task ahead.

"He took advantage of me, where I came from," she says. "I feel like I can't really have a social connection with people. I don't know why. I'm used to being alone now and I can't really make friends."

Adds Jane, "It's always on my mind. I have other things to do, but it's always running through my mind. When is it going to end? I want to know. I act like nothing happened but it did. I don't want this to happen to anyone else. I don't want anyone else to be a victim."

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