Former Marked Tree Coach Pleads 'Not Guilty' to Sex Charges

December 5, 2003 - Posted at 3:57 p.m. CDT

(Content advisory: story contains graphic references of alleged conduct.)

HARRISBURG, AR - A former Region 8 coach pleaded 'not guilty' today to charges of sexual abuse and rape.

47-year-old Robert Jennings was arraigned today in a brief court proceding at the Poinsett County Sheriff's Office in Harrisburg, after five students accused him of sexual abuse and rape.

In a candid interview with K8 news, alleged victim Jason Webb said he and his father have become comfortable discussing events of the past.  The 27-year-old Webb was the first person to tell police about his relationship with Robert Jennings, a relationship he says started when he was in the ninth grade, and continued until he was 21.

"I was one of the smallest guys out there and he told me, 'I'll make you big and strong, stick with me,' and his way was through steroids.  While I was on the steroid cycle I would have to go through his checks...he would check me out, check out my body, make sure everything was alright.  He would masturbate me, get a semen sample, and say he would have to get my semen sample checked to make sure I was alright while I was on the cycle," Webb said.

At the time, Webb says he felt uneasy about the situation, but didn't know what to do until less than a year ago.  "I have different sides to me...he created my nickname, which is 'Flash.'  That's the bad part of me, that he created that's been with me for all these years, and I'm trying to get away from him...and he's haunted me for years now, and it's now through going through a lot of couseling that I'm finally getting away from him."

And, Webb says he isn't the only victim out there.  In fact, he says his younger brother, who is currently overseas, was also abused.  "With me it was going on until I stopped it, it might be five to ten years down the road until some of those guys develop the problems that I have now."

Papers filed in Poinsett County Circuit Court in April list 22 counts of misconduct filed against Jennings, including two counts of rape.  The charges involve students who ranged in age from 13 to 17.  At the time of Jennings' arrest he posted bail at $10,000.  Following his plea in court today, Jennings' attorney told K8 News, "We are going to withhold any comments at this point."

Jennings' case is scheduled for trial in February.

Jason Webb continues to undergo counseling.