Ariz. gymnastics coach pleads not guilty to sexual conduct with teen student

Ariz. gymnastics coach pleads not guilty to sexual conduct with teen student

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Ariz. gymnastics coach pleads not guilty to sexual conduct with teen student

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A Mesa (Ariz.) gymnastics coach accused of performing sex acts on a teenage student during a two-year period pleaded not guilty to numerous sexual-misconduct and drug charges.

Last month, Nolan Craig Knuckles, 30, was charged with nine counts of sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of giving or selling drugs to a minor, all Class 2 felonies, after he was accused of maintaining an illicit relationship with a male student athlete, now 15, for two years.

Nolan Knuckles (Photo: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

Nolan Knuckles
(Photo: Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

Knuckles appeared before Judge Julie Mata in custody and dressed in white-and-gray jail garb Friday morning at the Maricopa County Superior Court. A man and woman representing the victim remained silent in the courtroom.

Court records state Knuckles, who was arrested March 25, was the boy’s gymnastics coach for four years and the two began a sexual relationship when the student was in the seventh grade.

Police were informed about the alleged misconduct after the teenager confided in a teacher on March 23 that he had been having a sexual relationship with Knuckles since middle school.

Court records indicate the boy told investigators he was at Knuckles’ apartment in east Mesa when the 30-year-old first performed a sexual act on him. He informed police that the majority of the encounters took place at Knuckles’ apartment, but a more recent meeting occurred near a canal in Fountain Hills.

In addition, the boy told authorities that Knuckles had provided him with marijuana on two separate occasions before they had sex, the records state.

During a recorded phone call on March 25 between Knuckles and the boy, police said the man told the boy to lie about their relationship if questioned.

Knuckles was arrested later that day, and police said that Knuckles admitted to having a sexual relationship with the boy. However, he did not address the marijuana accusation, the report said.

Knuckles oversaw the boys competitive team at Diamondback Gymnastics, which terminated his employment after the arrest.

His next court appearance is scheduled for May 26. He remains non-bondable from the Maricopa County Jail.

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