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Former Aurora coach Michael Cardamone pleads guilty to improperly touching gymnasts

Michael Cardamone. | Sun-Times Medifile

Michael Cardamone. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: December 24, 2012 7:09AM

Ending a decade-long legal battle, former Aurora gym coach Michael Cardamone pleaded guilty Wednesday to improperly touching seven young female gymnasts.

Despite the 10-year prison term imposed on him after his guilty plea, the 35-year-old Cardamone won’t serve any more time behind bars.

Cardamone will walk free because he already had served nearly five years in prison after being convicted in 2005 of criminal sexual abuse charges related to the same incidents.

Those convictions later were overturned, and Cardamone faced a re-trial before striking a deal with DuPage County prosecutors that saw him plead guilty to aggravated battery, unlawful restraint and perjury.

Those charges, however, didn’t allege his actions in touching the girls during their gymnastic lessons were sexually motivated — and Cardamone in court insisted he “never sexually abused anyone, ever.”

“I believe I have accomplished what I have greatly sacrificed and lost to prove that my conduct as a gymnastics coach was never sexually motivated,” said Cardamone, who struggled to hold back tears as he pleaded guilty.

But his defiant tone coming immediately after his guilty plea seemed to even startle Judge Blanche Hill Fawell.

“I want you to understand you have pleaded guilty,” Fawell told Cardamone, who because of his plea won’t have to register as a sex offender.

Cardamone, though, will have to register for 10 years as a violent offender against youth.

His statement angered many of the seven gymnasts and their family members, who packed one side of the Wheaton courtroom. Several dozen Cardamone supporters filled the other side, with sheriff’s deputies carefully keeping the two groups separated.

“I think we were all taken aback by that,” said Bailey Prosser, now 23, a former gymnast who testified against Cardamone at his trial.

“I don’t think there’s any way to be satisfied with the outcome. He still shows no remorse,” said Alyssa Crosby, 22, another former gymnast who had testified against her onetime coach.

Cardamone initially was charged in 2002 with improperly fondling and touching 14 young gymnasts he coached at the American Institute of Gymnastics in Aurora.

A jury acquitted him of charges related to seven of the gymnasts but convicted him of improperly touching seven others.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, then served nearly five years before his convictions were overturned.

He has been free on bail since 2009.

Several of his supporters who coached with Cardamone at his family-run gym said they still believe he did nothing wrong and said the young gymnasts mistakenly believed they had been abused or mistreated.

“As children, they’re very impressionable. You can be made to believe something happened to you,” said Sandy Huston, who has coached at the gym for more than 20 years.

Several of the gymnasts ripped those claims by Cardamone’s supporters.

“I just think it’s disgusting when someone could say we made this up,” said a former gymnast, now 17.

DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said Wednesday in a statement: “Today is the day Mr. Cardamone admitted that his accusers were not lying. He admitted touching them inappropriately. He admitted he had been lying to the court. I sincerely thank each one of these brave girls for having the courage to see this case through to the end.”

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