court report

The jury trial for a former South Laurel High basketball coach was side-stepped on Tuesday when he entered a guilty plea on lesser charges.

Jonathan Walker, 34, of Hazard, entered a guilty plea to an amended charge of sexual misconduct in Laurel Circuit Court on Tuesday morning. He was originally charged with one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a student while he served as a girls basketball coach at the school. He resigned that position when the allegations came to light.

The plea agreement, according to court records, recommends Walker to 12 months in jail — which is probated for 24 months, but on the condition that he serve 60 days in jail. Walker must also surrender his teaching certification and not coach any youth athletics in the future. The court document also states that Walker will not attempt to have this conviction expunged from his criminal history.

Sentencing is set for September 14.

The plea and sentencing ends a long saga of court proceedings for Walker, who was indicted in February 2019. The incident for which he was indicted took place in November 2018.

His court appearances and trials were reset during the 2020 COVID pandemic, with a trial set for December 2021. Testimony began in that case, but during the second day of the trial, a juror realized a connection with a witness in the case, which was reported to the attorneys. The attorneys and judge conferred and that trial was declared a mistrial.

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