Softball coach pleads no contest to molestation

NAPA, Calif.

Christa Tharp, 34, of Napa, pleaded no contest to felony charges of oral copulation and sexual penetration with a foreign object on a person under age 18 and two misdemeanor charges of child molestation, her attorney Beverly Saxon Leonard said this morning.

Tharp faces up to eight years in state prison when she is sentenced Nov. 10, Saxon Leonard said.

"We will seek local jail time," she said.

Tharp was a volunteer coach for the Napa High School girls' softball team and a coach for the Napa Valley Express girls' team, Saxon Leonard said. The victim was on both teams.

Tharp and the girl developed a relationship and became good friends, and although the sexual conduct between March and July was consensual, it was illegal, Saxon Leonard said.

It began after Tharp separated from her husband and moved in with the 16-year-old girl's family, Saxon Leonard said.

The sexual relationship came to light when the parents of other girls on the team notified authorities of their suspicions about the "unusual" relationship between player and coach, Saxon Leonard said. Police were informed about the relationship on July 11 and Tharp was arrested on four felony charges on July 22.

Tharp was released from jail but was taken into custody again when she violated a civil restraining order against her by meeting with the girl three times, Saxon Leonard said.

Several misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and contempt of court were then added to the complaint, she said. Napa County Superior Court Judge Mark Boessenecker will dismiss those charges and two felony charges at sentencing, Saxon Leonard said.

Tharp pleaded no contest on the day of her scheduled preliminary hearing and remains in custody.

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