Bartholomew McInerney, the former baseball coach at St. Rose (Belmar, N.J.) pleaded guilty Monday to child endangerment charges, admitting that he engaged in sexually explicit conversations with his former players, his defense attorney said.
McInerney, commonly called “Coach Bart,” pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fourth-degree child endangerment, his attorney, Edward Bertucio, said.
The agreement will bring in an end to a case that has dragged through the court system for seven years and rocked the community at St. Rose High School in Belmar.
“Mr. McInerney wanted to get this behind him. He also want to get it behind the young men he used to coach and work with,” Bertucio said. “He had the best of intentions, but he realized he wasn’t the person to give the advice he was giving.”
Under the plea deal with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, McInerney, 51, of Spring Lake, will serve no more prison time than what he had already served, he will not be put on probation and will not be required to register as a Megan’s Law sex offender, Bertucio said.
McInerney was able to avoid registering as a sexual offender because he pleaded guilty to a low-level fourth-degree offense, his attorney said.
He will be sentenced Aug. 25 in Middlesex County Superior Court, Bertucio said.
Bertucio said negotiations had been taking place for a while, but the agreement was finalized late last week. He said the agreement would help both McInerney and his former players move past a long and painful legal battle,
Prosecutors previously alleged McInerney encouraged — and sometimes paid — his players to pleasure themselves and send text messages about their sexual activity. Prosecutors charged he sought the messages for his own sexual gratification.
McInerney said Monday that he only had sex talks with players to keep them from engaging in premarital sex, Bertucio said. He made a similar argument during testimony at his 2010 trial.
Under questioning from Bertucio, McInerney told the court Monday that the conversations he had with his underage players should have come from a parent or health professional, not a baseball coach.
The allegations against him first emerged in 2007 after he took some of the St. Rose baseball players to Alaska and Hawaii for tournaments. The following year, one of his former players, Andrew M. Clark, one of the first players to speak to investigators, died when he stepped in front of an oncoming train. Clark’s family later received a $900,000 settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit against McInerney, St. Rose and the Diocese of Trenton.
McInerney was initially found guilty of child endangerment in 2010 and sentenced to 18 years in prison, but an appellate court threw out his conviction after ruling that a judge had given improper instructions to the jury.
He had been set to be retried in Middlesex County Superior Court. The case had been moved to Middlesex due to the “complicated history of the case,” Bertucio said. He declined to elaborate.
The guilty plea comes a month after an appellate court ruling that McInerney’s defense could not use his 2010 testimony at the upcoming trial.
McInerney had planned invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent during the retrial.