A Park City High School tennis coach is facing criminal charges stemming from an alleged assault that occurred at the Park City Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center (PC MARC) in late August.
The Summit County Attorney’s Office filed two charges against Lani Wilcox, 62, who became the head coach of the girls varsity tennis team in 2021 and has worked as a tennis professional at the MARC since 2019. Wilcox faces one count of aggravated child abuse, a third-degree felony, and one count of damage to or interruption of a communication device, a class B misdemeanor stemming from an Aug. 29 incident.
Clayton Simms, a defense attorney representing Wilcox, said his client acted to protect others.
According to charging documents, Wilcox and a student-athlete engaged in a verbal argument about the student-athlete’s position on the team. The argument began to escalate, and Wilcox allegedly got into the minor’s face. Prosecutors said the student-athlete then slapped Wilcox.
Wilcox allegedly grabbed the student-athlete around the neck, brought her to the ground and maintained a chokehold, according to charging documents. Prosecutors said the student-athlete was unable to breathe while she was on the ground.
Once the student-athlete was able to get away from her coach, she grabbed her cellphone and told Wilcox she was going to call the police, according to the charging documents. Wilcox allegedly grabbed the phone out of the student-athlete’s hands and walked away. State law prohibits an individual from interrupting another person’s attempt to call for emergency aid by force, intimidation or violence.
Simms called the situation unfortunate and said it was “baffling” the County Attorney’s Office chose to file charges. He said the student-athlete became upset about her standing on the team and struck the coach.
The student-athlete allegedly then directed her anger towards the assistant coach, striking him, according to Simms. He said she may have turned on the other players and Wilcox was acting in self-defense. Her reaction protected the other people present, according to Simms. He anticipates assault charges will be filed against the juvenile.
Simms said his client is innocent and plans to fight the charges, including going to trial if necessary. Simms expects the evidence will ensure an acquittal.
“Sports are being taken too seriously and the player acted out of anger,” Simms said.
Park City School District spokesperson Heidi Matthews said in a prepared statement the School District became aware of the formal charges on Friday, which was the day they were filed in the 3rd District Court at Silver Summit.
“PCSD takes matters such as these seriously and will work with the proper authorities. Our district is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and employees, and as such, the employee remains on administrative leave. PCSD will have no additional comment on this personnel matter,” she said.
The felony charge carries a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to five years in state prison upon conviction. Wilcox has not been arrested. She was ordered to appear in court at a later date.