Michael John DeSarno, a former wrestling coach at St. John's College High School, was acquitted yesterday in Prince George's County Circuit Court of child abuse and a fourth-degree sex offense in a case involving a teen-age wrestler who had trained privately with the coach, according to defense attorney Joseph DePaul.
The 16-year-old wrestler, who now lives in California, told jurors that while he was training with DeSarno at his Beltsville apartment last Aug. 31, the coach hypnotized him and then touched his genitals.
The boy, who had attended Hammond High School in Howard County, also told jurors that his mother had about a 15-minute discussion with him and DeSarno when she arrived at the apartment to give her son a ride home but that he did not mention the incident because he was embarrassed.
The youth reported the incident to police in November.
DeSarno did not testify during the trial that ended yesterday. At a trial last week in an unrelated case he testified that he had touched the Hammond High boy's genitals during the practice to see if he felt pain.
DeSarno was convicted of child abuse in that earlier trial. That trial involved charges by another teen-aged wrestler who testified that DeSarno hynotized him and told him to perform a sex act while the two were training alone in the coach's apartment.
DeSarno faces a maximum prison sentence of 15 years in that case and will be sentenced Sept. 13.
The defense presented several witnesses who testified to the use of hypnosis as a legitimate wrestling technique. In addition, DePaul had jurors view a 20-minute videotape in which wrestlers demonstrated numerous wrestling holds that are used to score points in a match. Many of the moves involve lifting an opponent by the crotch.