2022 | Courts

Hearing for Whitman crew coach accused of sexually abusing two teens pushed to late May

Defense has requested additional time to review plea offer, according to court records

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A hearing in a Washington, D.C., court for a former crew coach and teacher at Walt Whitman High School charged with sexually abusing two female former rowers has been pushed to late May. It was previously scheduled for Monday.

Shipley, 48, of Northwest D.C. was charged in August with sexually abusing the rowers, who were 17 and 18 at the time, according to authorities. Both had been students of Shipley, who had long coached and taught social studies at the Bethesda school. He is no longer employed by Montgomery County Public Schools.

Shipley has been offered a plea deal from the government, but it remains unclear whether he will accept it. In the past week, he has changed defense attorneys and his new attorney requested additional time to review the plea offer, according to court records.

According to charging documents, Shipley allegedly had a sexual relationship with the 17-year-old in the summer of 2013, just after she graduated. The student was a rower on the team and was in Shipley’s history class during her junior year, she told police.

The other victim, who was 18 at the time of the alleged abuse, was also a student of Shipley’s, according to charging documents. She and Shipley started talking during her sophomore year, but the sexual relationship didn’t start until May 2018, just before she had graduated, according to charging documents.

In June, an outside consultant conducted a “culture review” of the women’s crew team after seven members complained about Shipley’s coaching and the board of directors received “disconcerting feedback” about Shipley, board President Dave Charlton previously told Bethesda Beat. The complaints did not involve allegations of sexual misconduct, according to the board.

The board suspended Shipley last summer pending the review, but rehired him for the fall season. Eight days after he was rehired, Shipley was arrested and charged by D.C. police with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor, according to court records.

On March 14, U.S. Attorney Caroline Burrell wrote in a filing to Associate Superior Court Judge Maribeth Raffinan that the government would extend a pre-indictment plea offer. Under the offer, Shipley could plead guilty to one count each of sexual abuse of a secondary education student and possession of a sexual performance by a minor. Under the terms of the plea, Shipley could not oppose the reading of victim impact statements in court, and would waive his opportunity to address the court.

Initially, prosecutors gave Shipley a deadline of April 17 to respond to the plea offer. That deadline was later extended to May 2, The Washington Post reported last month.

Court records indicate that a “notice of compliance” was filed in the case on Thursday, and on Friday Shipley’s new defense counsel requested additional time to review discovery and the prosecution’s plea offer with Shipley.

Because of the request for additional time from the defense, a status hearing scheduled for Monday was moved to May 27, according to court records.

Court records indicate that Shipley’s previous attorney, Jon Norris, withdrew from the case April 23, and that Thomas Key was appointed to represent Shipley two days later. Key told Bethesda Beat earlier this week that he would not be commenting on the case.

Norris could not be reached for comment on Friday. Shipley did not return a phone call Friday from a reporter seeking comment.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia referred questions to Shipley’s defense counsel.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com