- Associated Press - Saturday, February 22, 2014

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) - A judge has sentenced former Clarkdale softball coach Rick Roberson to 12 years in prison following his conviction earlier this month on two counts of exploitation of a child and one count of lustful touching of a child.

Allegations were brought against Roberson by former players in September of 2012.

Roberson’s attorney had requested probation because the 61-year-old former coach is in poor health, having battled throat cancer in recent years. Even one of Roberson’s victims said he shouldn’t have to serve prison time.

“From the beginning I didn’t want him to face jail time,” the victim told the court, according to The Meridian Star (http://bit.ly/1e4g8c3). “I felt the damage had already been done. He lost his job, and his family and the community was torn apart.”

District attorney Bilbo Mitchell said the sentence handed down Friday was the minimum allowed by the state on the charges.

Mitchell called Laurie Robinson, the Lauderdale County Adult Detention Facility administrator, to testify that the Mississippi Department of Corrections is well suited to handle any medical condition inmates may have.

“They have special units for people who are sick,” Mitchell said. “Like Judge Williamson said on the bench, we sentence people every day who are sick.”

Roberson sat shackled and handcuffed, head bowed, while wearing a red and white striped jail uniform during Friday’s hearing.

WTOK TV reported that Roberson complained about media coverage of his crimes as he was being led out by deputies (http://bit.ly/1cC19F2 ).

“Just for once, I challenge you to report the things I was actually accused of,” Roberson said. “I was accused of having a conversation, I was accused of buying candy and lotion, I was accused of touching someone on the leg, and for that I was given 12 years in pen.”

Roberson’s teams won four fast-pitch titles and seven slow-pitch title in his 25-year coaching career.