Two former Portage Area High School wrestling coaches were charged on Friday with pressuring their student-athletes to share pornographic photos of underage girls, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced.
Michael Anthony Fox, 33, of Cresson, and Bradley Paul Rousell, 31, of Portage, were arrested and charged in Allegheny County after an investigation that began with a tip to Pennsylvania's Safe2Say tipline program, Shapiro said in a press release.
Rousell and Fox face four and two counts, respectively, of criminal solicitation of child pornography, a third-degree felony, court documents indicate.
Each also faces a single misdemeanor count of corruption of minors.
Calls on Friday afternoon to Portage Area School District officials were not immediately returned.
Shapiro alleged that the images in question were shared in 2018 and 2019 at wrestling tournaments in West Mifflin, a suburb of Pittsburgh, during what were described as “mandatory team bonding meetings” in one of the coaches’ hotel rooms.
Rousell and Fox were accused of pressuring Portage wrestlers to bring photos of female classmates to the tournaments; they allegedly asked the student-athletes in the days and weeks leading up to the tournaments if they “got pics” and said they “better be getting them ready,” according to Shapiro. Two students allegedly told investigators that Fox directed them to obtain images of a specific female student.
In court documents, the sharing of these images was described as a team tradition at the annual West Mifflin tournaments. Current and former Portage wrestlers told investigators that the coaches referred to the tournaments as “where boys become men,” an alleged reference to the sharing of the images and to “explicit sexual talk and stories that Fox and Rousell shared with the wrestlers,” according to Shapiro.
“What these coaches did was not only an abuse of power, but (also) a violation of trust to the faculty and students at Portage (Area) High School,” Shapiro said in Friday’s press release. “Forcing students to share pornographic photos with their adult coaches is disturbing, illegal and abusive to the young adults they were supposed to be mentors to. Instead of coaching these boys how to be responsible young men, they used them.”
Rousell and Fox were arraigned Friday before Allegheny County District Judge Richard D. Olasz Jr., of West Mifflin.
Both men were lodged at Allegheny County Jail after being unable to post bail, according to court records. The cases are being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Chuck Washburn.