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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Lawsuit accuses former Sumner basketball coach of sexual abuse and harassment of minor

Jacob Jackson at a boys basketball game on Jan. 8, 2016, at Auburn Mountainview High School. A family is suing Jackson for sexual abuse and harassment, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.  (Peter Haley/Tacoma News Tribune)
By Angelica Relente Tacoma News Tribune Tacoma News Tribune

A family is suing a former Sumner High School varsity basketball coach for alleged sexual abuse and harassment of a boy he coached.

They filed the lawsuit Oct. 19 in Pierce County Superior Court.

Jacob “Jake” Jackson, 35, started coaching at Sumner High School in 2016. The Sumner-Bonney Lake School District placed him on administrative leave Aug. 31, around the same time the city first publicized its investigation in a series of tweets.

Jackson is no longer employed at the school district, according to a statement sent Thursday by school district spokesperson Elle Warmuth. The statement said the district has hired an interim coach.

“We support those who are struggling, and remain concerned for anyone in our community who is experiencing harm related to this situation. SBLSD is here to provide safe spaces and shared resources to help all of those affected,” according to the statement.

Hester Law Group attorney Brett Purtzer, who is representing Jackson, told the News Tribune on Thursday he received the lawsuit the day before and did not have any comments. Jackson has not been charged with a crime.

City spokesperson Carmen Palmer told the News Tribune the city’s investigation is ongoing, and they’re working with the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office.

When the city’s investigation is complete, they will work with the prosecutor’s office regarding potential charges, Palmer said.

“We can’t really give a time frame because so many things are out of our control,” Palmer said.

The lawsuit said, in addition to being a former coach, Jackson is also the CEO for Sterling Athletics, a Puyallup-based company that manufactures and sells athletic items such as basketballs, footballs and custom apparel.

Court papers say Jackson allegedly engaged in sexual exploitation of a child, sexual assault, false imprisonment and gender-based discrimination, among other things. The attorneys representing the family are Loren Cochran and Nicholas Douglas of Cochran Douglas, PLLC.

The boy suffered and continues to suffer “extreme emotional distress, personal anguish, fear, humiliation, pain and suffering,” according to the lawsuit.

Allegations made in the lawsuit

The lawsuit, which identifies the boy as John Doe 1, says he and Jackson met around the summer of 2017. Jackson allegedly offered to help make the boy into a collegiate basketball player after watching him play during open gym practices at Sumner High School.

When the boy moved from middle school to Sumner High School, Jackson allegedly started to “shower” him with Sterling Athletics gifts, such as custom apparel, basketball shoes and envelopes of money, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit alleges Jackson began regularly communicating with the boy through Snapchat, asked about his life, family and “other innocuous topics,” and eventually asked him to work for Sterling Athletics. The boy accepted the offer to learn more about the industry and make more contacts in the basketball community, according to court papers. Jackson would pay him in cash or by check at a “very high hourly rate,” the lawsuit alleges, sometimes more than $100 per hour.

Around the same time, Jackson allegedly sent the boy sexually explicit messages and photos, and pressured the boy to send photos in exchange.

Then, court papers say, in the summer of 2020, Jackson invited the boy to his home to help with yard work. He agreed to help because he felt pressure to comply with his boss’ request and was “afraid of the repercussions if he were to decline,” the lawsuit said.

Jackson allegedly invited the boy into his home after finishing the work and turned off the house phone and unplugged a smart speaker when they were inside. Jackson allegedly invited the boy upstairs to see his basketball shoe collection in the bedroom closet and showered while the boy looked at the collection, according to the lawsuit.

Jackson eventually cornered the boy in the closet, masturbated in front of him and repeatedly asked the boy to masturbate with him, the lawsuit alleges.

Over the next two years, Jackson allegedly continued to message the boy, asking for sexually explicit photos.

Jackson told the boy this behavior was “commonplace” for boys in his age, according to court papers. The boy complied with Jackson’s requests, the lawsuit said, because he felt pressured to do so and was scared of the repercussions if he didn’t.

His parents, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe 2 and Jane Doe, have allegedly experienced and continue to experience “parental grief, mental anguish and suffering” related to what their son went through.