The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office is again declining to file charges against a former water polo coach at a prestigious San Jose Catholic school for girls accused of sexually molesting a student in 2013.
In March of last year, Grace Leonis told NBC Bay Area she was just 14, a freshman at Presentation High School, when her 24-year-old coach, Jenna Roe, sexually assaulted her during a water polo tournament.
San Jose police referred the same case to the District Attorney’s office four years ago, when the alleged victim’s mother filed a police report after she says she learned of an inappropriate relationship between the female water polo coach and her daughter. Prosecutors did not file charges against Roe at the time, in part because the case stalled after Grace Leonis did not originally cooperate with investigators.
But after a recent year-long NBC Bay Area investigation into a series of sexual assault allegations at Presentation High School, in which Leonis opened up about her alleged assault, San Jose police re-opened the investigation into the coach and once again forwarded the case to the District Attorney’s Office.
[Click here to see NBC Bay Area’s entire series on alleged sexual misconduct at Presentation High School and the accusations school leaders covered up those allegations over a period of nearly three decades]
The District Attorney’s office declined interview requests from NBC Bay Area, but issued a statement saying: “These numerous and differing allegations were thoroughly investigated by the San Jose police – twice in the last four years – and carefully reviewed by senior supervising attorneys in this Office. There was complete agreement that, due to insufficient evidence, this remains a matter that is not viable for criminal prosecution.”
Jenna Roe did not respond to multiple requests for comment from NBC Bay Area.
“We were devastated, profoundly devastated,” Dina Leonis, Grace’s mother, said. “My family is trying to heal. Grace is doing much better. She’s very upset at the decision. She feels the [District Attorney’s] Office has failed her again.”
Dina Leonis says she learned of the alleged sexual misconduct after other students reported inappropriate behavior by the coach to Presentation High School leaders back in 2014, but the school never informed her or involved police.
A school spokesperson told NBC Bay Area early last year that the coach was asked not to return to the school due to violations of school policy after the alleged inappropriate behavior was reported to them. However, the school says it never involved police or child protective services because nothing reported to the school rose to the level of “reasonable suspicion of abuse.”
Dina Leonis says the alleged abuse has had a profound impact on her daughter and family, and despite the District Attorney’s decision, she encouraged victims of abuse to come forward.
“Please believe in your worth no matter what. Even if you don’t get justice, it helps not to keep those dark secrets inside,” Leonis said. “There’s resources, there’s support, there’s people that care and that’s what has gotten my family forward, the love and support of others.
She says her daughter is healing, and back in college now, where she’s studying psychology.
NBC Bay Area has more on Leonis’ story, and allegations from multiple other alleged victims of sexual misconduct at Presentation High School, in a special documentary. See it here:
Or watch and share on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7kElpG_OaU&t=1498s