HOLLIDAYSBURG - A former Altoona Area High School assistant girls soccer coach was sentenced Monday to at least 60 days in the Blair County Prison followed by 2 1/2 years' probation for sexual offenses against two of her players, a resolution of the case which the victims found satisfactory, according to Deputy Assistant District Attorney Wade Kagarise.
The coach, 25-year-old Kyla A. Hollingshead of Altoona, resigned her position last February after the two teenage girls came forward to relate how Hollingshead became not only their coach but also their friend.
The coach, charges stated, then went a step further and turned the friendships into sexual relationships.
Hollingshead entered guilty pleas Monday to corruption of a minor and institutional sexual assault.
The plea followed an opinion by Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan in November in which he rejected requests by Hollingshead and her Altoona attorney, Steven P. Passarello, to have the charge of institutional sexual assault, brought in the most recent case, dismissed. Passarello and Hollingshead argued she was not technically employed by the school district when the most recent assault occurred.
Sullivan ruled she was an employee of the district until her resignation in February, and he upheld the prosecution of the institutional sexual assault case involving the younger of the teens.
Institutional sexual assault was a charge that had been used to prosecute prison officials who violated inmates, but following the Jerry Sandusky case in which the former assistant Penn State coach was convicted of assaulting minors under his charge, institutional sexual assault was extended to include school employees and volunteers.
Hollingshead agreed to serve a prison sentence of 60 days to 23 months and then serve a term of probation.
Her sentence is to begin Jan. 6, according to Sullivan's order.
She is to avoid contact with her two victims.
A point made by the judge is that if Hollingshead goes to a fitness club and finds either girl there, she will be required to leave the building.
Hollingshead is to have no contact with the Altoona Area School District.
She will have to register for 15 years with police and keep authorities informed when she changes her residence, her job or school.
She is to undergo an evaluation by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Review Board, and if she is found to be a predator under Megan's Law, her registration requirement will be for life.
The former coach will be permitted to be around minors in her own family.
Neither she nor her victims wanted to speak during Monday's plea.
Sullivan gave her five years to pay her fines and costs after Passarello said Hollingshead was unemployed.
While Hollingshead is barred from coaching minors while under supervision in Blair County, she will be free to coach young people when her sentence is completed, Kagarise explained after the sentencing.
He said, however, that school districts and other government entities, and even private organizations, conduct background checks when hiring coaches, and her record will be public, which, he concluded, would likely keep her out of a coaching job.
Kagarise said he was impressed with the willingness of the young victims to testify and with the courage they showed throughout the ordeal.
"They are great girls. They have a great future ahead of them," Kagarise said.
With that in mind, Monday's plea represents closure for the victims, he explained.
Hollingshead was hired as an assistant girls soccer coach on Oct. 15, 2010.
Her first victim was 15 years old, according to the charges.
Hollingshead became friends with the player, sending her text messages, giving her rides to games and practice and inviting her to her home to watch movies.
She then gave a necklace to the girl and the relationship turned sexual. Even after the 15-year-old broke off the relationship with the coach, Hollingshead expressed romantic feelings for her.
In October 2012, Hollingshead developed a friendship with a 16-year-old player, then conducted a brief sexual affair with her from Thanksgiving until the beginning of the Christmas break last year.
Kagarise said in his opinion the Altoona Area School District acted properly when it learned about the suspected abuse. He said he was "comfortable" with the actions of the district.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.