Parlier High coach admits crime, fights sex offender registration

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A former Parlier High School basketball coach has admitted to statutory rape, but he's fighting the possible punishment of registering as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Francisco Pena stood in court Wednesday as a convicted man, but one who hasn't yet learned his punishment. The former Parlier coach pleaded no contest to unlawful sex with a minor, or statutory rape, three months ago. The probation department recommended no prison time and the judge was ready to agree, but with a twist.

"The Court had indicated if probation was granted, registration as a sex offender would be limited to the period of probation," said Judge Dennis Peterson.

The problem is, sex offender registration isn't mandatory with a statutory rape conviction, so it's not an automatic part of how the judge will punish Pena.

"He can, but he has to make a finding that this was done for sexual gratification and he may be a danger later on to others," said legal analyst Tony Capozzi.

And Pena's attorney believes the judge can't make Pena register as a sex offender just for as long as he's on probation. Capozzi dug through recent court rulings and says she may be right.

"I think under case law that's out there but not published, the courts will say if you're required to register under 290 (California sex offender registration law) it's not temporary," he said. "It's permanent and it's there for the rest of your life."

Pena doesn't want lifetime registration, so his attorney says he'll try to withdraw his plea if that's a requirement.

Pena was never a teacher and his attorney says a conviction means he'll never work at a school again.

Two other Parlier High employees were investigated for not reporting Pena's alleged crime, but prosecutors didn't file charges against them.

Pena was the second Parlier basketball coach arrested for statutory rape in two years. Anthony Lepore is still fighting his case.

Both he and Pena will be back in court in march.
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