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Youth football coach convicted of rapes

After two hours of deliberations, a Common Pleas Court jury Thursday found a 25-year-old Philadelphia youth football coach guilty of sexually assaulting five boys ages 8 to 10 and a 21-year-old disabled man.

Leon Watson, 24, of Diamond Street near 24th
Leon Watson, 24, of Diamond Street near 24thRead more

After two hours of deliberations, a Common Pleas Court jury Thursday found a 25-year-old Philadelphia youth football coach guilty of sexually assaulting five boys ages 8 to 10 and a 21-year-old disabled man.

The jury convicted Leon Watson of 16 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, indecent assault, and related offenses.

Watson, who met the boys through the teams he coached, volunteered as an assistant coach with the Rhawnhurst Raiders and coached the Little Vicks, a neighborhood team he formed. He became close with his victims: They played at his house, and some stayed with him when their parents were unable to care for them.

The attacks ended in November 2013, after police raided his home in the 2400 block of West Diamond Street.

In closing arguments Thursday morning, Assistant District Attorney Branwen McNabb recounted the gut-wrenching testimony the victims, some of whom cried on the witness stand, offered over three days.

"The victims just wanted to pay football ...," McNabb said, "and he stole that from them.

"The defendant's reign of terror and abuse ends now," she said.

McNabb applauded the efforts of social workers and police who visited Watson's home after they received a tip that there were problems at the house.

"Everyone did their jobs," she said, stressing that the strength of the case came from the testimony of the victims and the supporting evidence provided by investigators.

Through much of the trial, Watson was unresponsive, often glancing at the judge or simply staring into space.

Watson's lawyer, Catherine Berryman of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, told the jurors in her closing arguments that they should question whether the children's testimony was truthful, pointing at some inconsistencies in their statements.

The jurors quickly rejected that argument.

Assistant District Attorney Brandon Jaycox said Watson could spend the rest of his life in prison. He will be sentenced May 1 by Judge Timika Lane.

He was initially charged with 55 counts, but prosecutors chose to present just 16 to the jury. He was found guilty of all 16.

Watson has a lengthy juvenile rap sheet of sex crimes. According to police reports obtained by The Inquirer, he was arrested five times when he was 16 in alleged assaults on younger relatives, including the rape of a 3-year-old girl and the sexual assault of a 5-year-old boy.