Volleyball coach sentenced to 6 years on sexual assault charges

By James R. Riffel

City News Service

A volleyball coach who sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl while serving as an instructor at a summer volleyball camp at the University of San Diego was sentenced Tuesday to six years in state prison.

Xia Wei Li, 29, of Pacific Beach, pleaded guilty to two counts of committing a lewd act on a child under 14 and admitted an allegation of substantial sexual conduct.

A native of China who was in the United States on an expired visa, he will be deported at the end of his prison term.

Police said the victim, a San Bernardino resident, told investigators the sexual assault took place in late July in a secluded outdoor area of campus.

The girl’s mother read a statement to Judge Theodore Weathers in which she described her daughter as a “bubbly, gangly 12-year-old with a natural talent for volleyball” who has been forever changed by the attack.

She and her husband were pleased to give her an opportunity to participate at the camp, but she came home a week later after having been seduced in a way that was “cruel, callous and degrading,” said the woman, whose name was withheld for privacy reasons.

While her daughter has been outwardly strong, in private she has “spent many hours sobbing,” won’t discuss details, and has expressed concerns about coaches and Asian men, her mother said.

“This has psychologically damaged a young girl and put a nice family in upheaval,” Deputy District Attorney Dan Link said.

Without elaborating, the prosecutor said the attack also had a negative impact on the coaching community.

Li apologized to the victim’s family and said he hopes they can eventually forgive him.

“I’m not a bad person, but I made a bad choice at a very dark moment in my life,” Li said.

A number of family members and friends appeared in court in support of the defendant, but none chose to speak at the hearing.

Defense attorney Court Will said many others wrote letters to the judge.

“Every single one of them, without fail, said they never caught wind of this kind of thing in the past (about Li),” Will said.

Li coached for Epic Volleyball in Poway from 2006 through 2008, and Coast Volleyball in San Diego from 2008 to this year, and had been set to resume his post as junior varsity girls’ volleyball coach at La Jolla Country Day School this fall.

Link said when Li was arrested, police put out a telephone number for other victims to call, but no one else stepped forward.