Former Sapulpa Softball Coach Pleads Guilty To Videotaping Girls In Bathroom

Tuesday, November 5th 2013, 4:26 pm
By: Tess Maune

He spent much of his life on the field coaching girls softball, but now Howard Harjo will spend years behind bars for videotaping his teenage players partially nude.

Harjo pleaded guilty Tuesday to three counts of child sexual exploitation.

He was videotaping girls inside the bathroom stalls of a Sapulpa locker room. Tuesday, he admitted to cutting a hole in a trash can and using a small video camera to record girls.

Parents of some of the victims told us their daughters still think about it every day. We're not identifying the parents, to protect their daughters.

"He violated our trust," a father said.

Hiding his face outside the courtroom Tuesday, the man who secretly videotaped young girls had no interest in appearing on camera himself.

"I'm trying not to be emotional, but it's hard, it's affected my daughter," one mother said.

Howard Harjo had unlimited access to teenaged girls. He was an assistant coach for the Sapulpa High School girls' softball team from 2008 until he was arrested last summer. In addition to that, he coached a competitive girls' team.

"Youth sports was this man's life," another father said.

10/8/2013 Related Story: Court: Former Sapulpa Softball Coach To Enter Plea In Pornography Case

Two sets of parents, whose daughters played for Harjo, were in the courtroom when the former coach pleaded guilty to three counts of child exploitation.

Investigators say cameras hidden in bathroom trash cans show girls nude from the waist down, and in some shots Harjo was seen placing the camera, disguising it and adjusting its angle.

"It makes me very sick, to take the girls' innocence away. These were young girls," one victim's mother said.

Harjo was charged with nine counts of child sexual exploitation, 10 counts of possession of juvenile pornography, and three counts of peeping tom with photographic or electronic equipment. All but three child sexual exploitation counts were dropped as a part of a plea deal, to keep the victims from having to give painful testimony.

"It's definitely bothered her," one mother said. "Definitely, definitely has bothered her. She's a strong girl."

Harjo was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. Prosecutors say he'll be eligible for parole after 12 and a half years.

"I feel for his family, but I'm not as sympathetic to him. I mean, he knew, obviously, what he was doing," a mother said.

Parents say consequences will help as their daughters continue to heal, but say it will never bridge their broken trust.

"It's emotional. You just want to ask him why. Why would you have done something like that? We trusted you," a victim's mother said.

The parents we spoke with said Harjo coached his own daughters, who used those bathroom stalls just like all their other teammates.

"I get emotional about it, his family, they're as much of a victim as the rest of the girls. It's just a sad situation for them. They're without a husband and without a father," said the father of one victim.

Harjo will be 68 by the time he's eligible for an early release. When he is released, he'll have to register as a lifetime sex offender.