(CBS) ORANGE COUNTY, Fla.- Herbert Thomas, a 38-year-old high school basketball coach who faced charges of sexual activity with a minor, was found not guilty by jurors on Thursday, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
After several hours of deliberations, the coach accused of having sex with an underage player was acquitted on all charges.
In closing arguments, Prosecutor Rafael Rodriquez told jurors that the victim's love of the game led her to trust a coach who saw her potential, and ultimately took advantage of her trust. After Thomas trained her and brought her to his home to talk about playing basketball in college, he took advantage of her for sex on two separate occasions, Rodriquez said.
Defense attorney Javier Chavez countered that the victim only accused Thomas of taking advantage of her after her mother heard that she had been sexually active with a boyfriend.
"Before that, she'd never accused Mr. Thomas of touching her, of kissing her" Chavez said. The alleged victim assumed "this would stop mom from threatening to take away basketball," he argued.
Chavez also noted discrepancies in the victims account and her difficulty identifying when the sex had occurred.
"She can't be accurate because she's making it up," Chavez said.
Thomas, the coach of the Jones High School and the Florida girls Basketball team, called the allegations "nonsense" while testifying on Thursday.
The jury deliberated for three hours before reporting a deadlock. They returned the not-guilty verdict after being sent back by the judge to deliberate again at 6:30 p.m.