Michael John DeSarno testified yesterday in Prince George's County Circuit Court that he often used hypnosis as a method to help his wrestlers develop confidence in themselves, but that he never made any sexual contact with the youths during the sessions.
The 47-year-old DeSarno, a former St. John's College High School wrestling coach, is charged with one count of child abuse for allegedly having made a former Hammond High School wrestler perform a sex act during a private coaching session. In a separate case, DeSarno has also been charged with one count of child abuse and one count of a fourth-degree sex offense with another wrestler whom he was coaching in the off-season.
DeSarno testified that he met the Hammond High wrestler during a tournament in Howard County in 1983. He said they agreed that they would begin training together to improve the youth's skills.
DeSarno told jurors that during the next year he trained the youth during sessions he held at an area high school gym and also at his apartment in Beltsville. DeSarno said that the wrestler "lacked aggressiveness and concentration in the sport," and at one point he suggested using hypnosis to help him overcome those problems.
"I would talk to him about his concentration on the game and also on his ability to perform," DeSarno said. "Other than putting my hands on his forehead, I never made contact with him."
DeSarno, who in addition to teaching and coaching also ran a part-time roofing business so he "could provide jobs for his wrestlers" during the summer, testified that the Hammond High wrestler was removed from his training program last summer after he lied about missing sessions.
The jury is expected to hear closing arguments in the case today. If convicted, DeSarno faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail.