Benjamin Klafczynski, right, is charged with sexual imposition, tampering with evidence and illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. The jury is expected to decide his fate today in Medina County Common Pleas Court. Klafczynski is being represented by Richard J. Perez, left, and Hector G. Martinez.
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MEDINA — When Jack Thompson first heard the allegations against Benjamin Klafczynski, a person he looked up to as a mentor, he couldn’t believe them.
Klafczynski, 29, a former teacher and coach at Wadsworth High School, is accused of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, a second-degree felony; tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; and sexual imposition, a third-degree misdemeanor.
Thompson, a 2017 Wadsworth graduate, once dated the high school girl that Klafczynski reportedly was interested in. He also was on the Grizzlies’ golf team coached by Klafczynski, and was in a sports marketing class he taught.
“He was someone I looked up to,” Thompson, 20, testified during Klafczynski’s trial Thursday in Medina County Common Pleas Court. “He was someone that was a mentor.”
He said Klafczynski also gave him advice on his personal life.
On Dec. 4, 2016, however, Thompson said he received a call from his former girlfriend.
“She said she felt unsafe and threatened at school,” he testified.
The girl was scared, he said.
Thompson, now a sophomore at Kent State University, said: “I was in disbelief and shock in what I was hearing. It wasn’t something I wanted to believe was true.”
He said after speaking with the girl, he confronted Klafczynski at school the following day. He wanted to talk “face to face.”
Klafczynski brushed off the allegations, Thompson testified.
“He tried to play if off like she was making all of this up,” Thompson said. “I questioned why she would do that and for the reason behind it.”
Thompson recorded some of the conversation on his phone, which he hid in his book bag. The entire conversation wasn’t recorded, however, he said, because he ran out of data.
He said he provided the recording to Wadsworth police.
“He said she came on to him,” Thompson said.
Klafczynski is accused of tampering with evidence for allegedly deleting a Snapchat app that was on his phone. Photos, videos and texts shared via the mobile messaging application disappear from the recipient’s phone after a few seconds.
“He told me he never had the app downloaded on his phone and never had an account,” Thompson testified.
County Assistant Prosecutor Michael McNamara accused Klafczynski in court of sending pictures of his genitals to the girl.
McNamara said Klafczynski is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material because he “directed” the girl to send him nude photos of her.
McNamara also said Klafczynski was charged with sexual imposition because he reportedly touched the girl on her upper thigh in his classroom.
The prosecution also alleges the ex-teacher asked the girl over to his house to babysit his toddler son, but when she arrived, there was no one there but Klafczynski.
“I told her to let someone know because these are serious allegations,” Thompson testified.
Wadsworth Principal Steve Moore testified Thursday that the girl and her mother came to Wadsworth High School on Dec. 5 to speak with him. After hearing the tone of the conversation, he invited Wadsworth Superintendent Andrew Hill to join the meeting.
After the meeting, Moore said the superintendent placed Klafczynski on paid administrative leave while the school district investigated the charges. Hill told Klafczynski not to step foot on school property and to not contact any Wadsworth students.
In a misconduct form sent by Wadsworth Schools to Klafczynski, the district alleged that he had inappropriate conversations with the female student and exchanged photos via social media, according to Klafczynski’s personnel file. The school district then notified Wadsworth police.
Klafczynski tendered his resignation, effective Jan. 6, 2017, and the school board accepted the resignation at its Jan. 5 meeting.
Moore testified he later found a Post-it Note on Klafczynski’s desk, which the prosecution submitted as evidence. It read, “Coming over; Snapchat delete, last pics; moving forward.”
McNamara also showed school surveillance footage of Klafczynski getting the female student out of class to talk.
One of the girl’s classmates, Riley Finegan, 18, testified Thursday that when she and her friend were at Finegan’s Wadsworth home, her friend received a phone call from Klafczynski. Finegan used her iPhone to record the conversation.
Klafczynski’s ex-wife, Stacy Wilson, also testified Thursday. She said she has been separated from Klafczynski since Dec. 6, 2016.
“I moved out immediately,” she said after the allegations surfaced.
The couple divorced on May 10 this year.
Klafczynski, a former baseball star at Highland High School and Kent State University, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. He played minor league baseball for the Boston Red Sox farm system.
The prosecution rested its case Thursday. Defense attorney Richard J. Perez will present witnesses today when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. in Judge Christopher J. Collier’s court.
Court officials expect the jury will reach a verdict today.