francisco hernandez sanabria


A Santa Maria area youth soccer coach accused of kissing and soliciting photos from one of his players last year was ordered to stand trial following Wednesday's preliminary hearing.

Francisco Javier Hernandez Sanabria, 34, faces a felony count of lewd acts upon a child identified only as Jane Doe. Testimony at the Santa Maria Superior Court revealed that the alleged crimes occurred a year before detectives began investigating.

Sanabria was employed as both a club soccer coach and walk-on soccer coach for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District. According to testimony Wednesday, Sanabria had two prior incidents with two teens, aged 13 and 16, where he'd text one of them, calling her "cute" and that he'd "love it if she came to his practices."

Deputy District Attorney Fabiana Fede who is prosecuting the case, argued that Sanabria should be held accountable, as he was in a position of trust with mentoring children, and that if Doe didn't put a stop to the relationship, it could have progressed further. Fede also argued that the kiss that took place was not an isolated incident, and when Doe sent him pictures of herself, he reportedly asked her to take off more of her clothes.

Senior Deputy Public Defender Lori Pedego, who represents Sanabria, argued that the kiss didn't involve further touching of other body parts, only lasted a few seconds and that the majority of their relationship was based on text messaging.

Pedego also sought to have the court knock down his felony to a misdemeanor, as the prior incidents had nothing to do with his current case. Furthermore, Sanabria's psychological assessment revealed he had an immature viewpoint of appropriate relationships, and it was recommended he'd benefit more from counseling than imprisonment.

"The [situation] was inappropriate," Pedego agreed, but noted that Sanabria isn't accused of penetration, groping or assault. 

Judge Jed Beebe denied Pedego's motion, maintaining that the pair's age difference and prior events with other girls gave context to the motive behind Sanabria's alleged crime. While he did agree that Sanabria's charges only rose to the low level of misdemeanor lewd acts on a minor, Beebe said the events leading up to and after the kiss were "troubling," and clearly improper in the eyes of any parent of a young child.

"I'm disturbed by the age, the position of trust a coach was in, who would allow it to [progress]," Beebe continued, noting that Sanabria referred to themselves as boyfriend and girlfriend. 

Santa Maria Police Detective Cassandra Stowasser testified first, revealing that she interviewed Doe in April, when she told the detective Sanabria was her soccer coach and that they had begun texting each other in March 2016.

Doe was 14 at the time.

What started off as casual texting "gradually changed," Stowasser testified, and that Doe said Sanabria began asking for pictures of her, asked her to sneak out of her parents' house while they were away, or he'd offer to pick her up.

Doe admitted she sent Sanabria about 10 photos of her only in a sports bra and spandex. 

During one phone call between Sanabria and the teen, she worried their relationship would get out and that her mom had begun questioning her.

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"Then, [Sanabria] asked, 'What did you tell her? It's all about soccer, right?'" Stowasser testified. He instructed her to "just say no" and to keep her parents happy so they wouldn't question further.

Doe finally admitted to Sanabria one her friends knew about their kiss outside the Edwards Community Center near Pioneer Valley High School, after the two made a bet over a soccer game. 

'I told you not to say anything,' Sanabria reportedly responded, to which Doe apologized. 

Stowasser later contacted Sanabria for an interview, when Sanabria admitted to detectives "things got out of hand" and that "it was a mistake."

The relationship reportedly ended in August 2016, after Sanabria admitted to the teen he had a girlfriend. 

Under Pedego's questioning, Stowasser acknowledged that she didn't know what Sanabria's exact intentions were when he'd ask the girl to hang out or go to soccer games. Furthermore, no text messages between the two were ever saved or recovered. Sanabria also told Stowasser that he never wanted to have sex with Doe, the detective said. 

Santa Maria Police Officer Julia Tatarian also testified Wednesday, revealing that she had spoken with the director of Coastal Valley Soccer Club where Sanabria was employed. The director said he questioned Sanabria after parents reported their concerns over his behavior with girls on the field. Sanabria admitted when he texted one girl, he told her she looked "nice" only to boost her self-esteem, and asked another if he could take her to McDonald's.

The case returns to court Nov. 1 for arraignment on the information.

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210