Former Astoria wrestling coach sentenced for sex crimes

Former Astoria High School wrestling coach Gary Medina after a court appearance in April.

A former Astoria High School wrestling coach and Coast Guard officer was sentenced Friday to more than eight years in prison for sex crimes in 2005.

Gary Medina was found guilty in January of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old girl who was living in his home, as well as having sex with her 15-year-old friend. Circuit Court Judge Dawn McIntosh delivered the verdict following a two-day, nonjury trial.

The punishment includes more than eight years for first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, more than six years for first-degree sex abuse and six months for third-degree rape. McIntosh ruled that the most lengthy sentences will run concurrently, despite Deputy District Attorney Dawn Buzzard’s request that they run consecutively. He also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

The mother of the woman who Medina had sex with at 15 years old spoke at the sentencing hearing Friday. She detailed how her daughter, months after her grandparents died unexpectedly, became infatuated with Medina, who was in his early 30s at the time. The relationship continued on-and-off for about a decade, and the couple had two children together.

“She was struggling with the loss of my parents,” the mother said. “I believed that God placed him in our lives when we needed him most.”

But the relationship soured over time, she said.

“I began to feel like I had lost her. She became so distant from her family because Gary was her whole world,” the mother said before turning to Medina. “She was a vulnerable child and you took advantage of her and took control of every part of her life. She was brainwashed to love you, and she was brainwashed to defend you. I know you believe your lies. These little girls paid the price.”

The victim then testified that Medina abused her.

“The wool was pulled over every person’s eyes,” the victim said. “Putting Gary behind bars may silence him for a while, but I know in my heart he will come back and start this cycle again.”

Cherish Nunnally, who was staying with Medina at 17, talked about how Medina had used her vulnerability to manipulate her. The Daily Astorian does not typically identify victims of sexual abuse, but Nunnally agreed to have her name disclosed.

After being born to a heroin-addicted mother, Nunnally bounced between numerous foster homes as a child before living with Medina. She was given medication to treat an ear infection and migraine one night and climbed into Medina’s bed in between him and his wife, who has since died.

“You and I didn’t grow up with good role models to teach us what good boundaries were. I’ve had to be a mother as long as I can remember, so I don’t mind being a mother to you now and telling you, ‘No,’” Nunnally said. “Gary, you used your power and control to manipulate people, and today I am taking back my power.”

Buzzard lauded the two women.

“Many people don’t realize that Mr. Medina is the quintessential sex abuser,” Buzzard said. “He’s the one everybody should be mad at, but he flipped it around. It was genius, really.”

Christine Mascal, Medina’s Portland-based attorney, filed two motions to reconsider the verdict prior to sentencing. McIntosh denied both.

“Nothing in the memo changes what was argued in trial,” McIntosh said.

After everyone involved in the defense and prosecution said their piece, Medina, who did not testify at the trial, came forward.

He admitted to drinking heavily at the time of the crimes due to his late wife’s cancer diagnosis, often impairing his judgment and his ability to be a good father and husband. He also described how his life was going smoothly — a new fiancee, a new house, multiple children to raise and recent success as a wrestling coach at Beaverton High School — before he was arrested in February 2017.

“While in trial, everybody got a two-day snapshot of me — only 10 percent of the entire truth,” Medina said. “In the wave of this ‘Me Too’ movement, it seems like men are considered guilty immediately. It isn’t fair all the time.”

Medina pointed to what he believed were holes in the prosecution’s arguments. He said he was out of town with the Coast Guard when he was said to have had sex with the 15-year-old victim. He said Nunnally’s position in bed with him — and next to his light-sleeping wife — would have made it impossible to reach up her shirt and down her pants.

Medina also questioned the truthfulness of the two victims, saying he maintained a relationship with both for years afterward.

In her testimony, Nunnally alluded to the fact that several witnesses questioned the victims’ veracity.

“If those same people were asked about Gary, there would have been significant pause before answering that question,” she said.

At the end of his comments, Medina tearfully apologized to the victims for his behavior but said he did not commit the crimes.

“Every story has two sides,” Medina said. “If I’m going to prison when I’m innocent, I wanted you to hear mine.”

The comments did not sit well with McIntosh, who said she wished she could issue a longer sentence.

The judge said his comments were not subject to cross-examination and could not be construed as evidence, pointed to interview transcripts in which Medina discussed how teenage girls would flirt with him, and said a recorded conversation between him and one of the victims proved he was controlling.

“It turned my stomach to listen to you,” McIntosh said. “The last 30 minutes of you talking about what liars they are did nothing but solidify my opinion.”

The judge then turned to the victims.

“I found you incredibly believable. You withstood substantial cross-examination from a skilled lawyer,” McIntosh said. “You have not been destroyed by this.”

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