Luke Heimlich, 22, pleaded guilty to molesting his six-year-old niece as a teenager. He is now the star pitcher for Oregon State University’s baseball team
A college baseball player who pleaded guilty to molesting his six-year-old niece as a teenager has claimed that nothing ever actually happened, in new reports.
Luke Heimlich, 22, is a pitcher for Oregon State University’s baseball team in Corvallis, Oregon.
Last summer on the eve of the NCAA College World Series a local newspaper revealed that the star pitcher had been convicted of molesting his older brother’s six-year-old daughter when he was 15.
The news made headlines across the country, with everyone asking the same question of why he was ever even allowed to play college baseball given his past.
This weekend Heimlich spoke out about the situation in an interview with The New York Times in which he denied having committed the crime.
‘I always denied anything ever happened,’ he told The Times.
‘Even after I pled guilty, which was a decision me and my parents thought was the best option to move forward as a family.
‘And after that, even when I was going through counseling and treatment, I maintained my innocence the whole time.’
Heimlich opened up about the situation for the first time this week in an interview with the New York Times in which he said that he has been adamant that he was innocent
He says he took a plea deal to shield his family, including his niece, from the trauma of a lengthy trial, and because it would result in him getting his record expunged within five years
The girl’s mother, who has remained anonymous to protect the identity of the victim, has a very different story.
‘There is no way he didn’t do it,’ she told The Times, adding that her daughter’s descriptions of the alleged abuse were ‘very specific’.
The case was first exposed by The Oregonian last June.
The news outlet wrote: ‘The young victim had reported Heimlich’s abuse to her mother, and the father later contacted authorities, according to a probable cause document filed by prosecutors.
‘The girl told investigators that inside Heimlich’s bedroom, he pulled down her underwear and “touched her on both the inside and outside of the spot she uses to go to the bathroom,” according to court records.
‘”She said that she told him to stop, but he wouldn’t,” the documents state, and that “it hurt” when he touched her.’
Heimlich was charged with two counts of molestation for incidents between 2009 and 2011. The victim was four when the abuse first occurred and six at the time of the second.
Heimlich was offered a plea deal, in which he pleaded guilty and in return had one charge dropped and was placed on two years’ probation with court-ordered classes.
He was classified as a Level One sex offender for five years, which is used for perpetrators that are considered to be unlikely to become repeat offenders.
He also had to write an apology letter to his niece.
The news of Heimlich’s conviction broke on the eve of the NCAA college world series last summer, just two months before he would have been removed from the sex offender registry
Heimlich has kept his dream of playing Major League baseball alive as the star pitcher for the OSU team, but his victim’s mother and other critics say he shouldn’t be allowed to play at all
In the Times interview this week Heimlich claimed that he pleaded guilty as a way to have a quicker, lower profile trial that would be easier on his family, implying that his niece would have had to undergo questioning if he hadn’t taken the plea deal.
‘Trials aren’t fun things and, as I said before, it is a delicate situation within a family,’ he said. ‘We didn’t want to do anything to complicate things.’
However, his hopes to keep the case on the down low were crushed until last year when he failed to update his location for the state sex offender registry and was issued a police citation.
When reporters caught wind of the citation, they exposed the story.
The court records were unsealed two months after the news had first broken and his record was expunged, removing him from the registry.
Along with asserting his innocence, this week Heimlich said that he had nothing to say to critics who want him taken off the field saying: ‘Ultimately the people around me know who I am. That is what matters. Everybody else can say what they want’
Heimlich’s teammates, coaches and fans have been largely supportive since the news broke
When the story made national headlines Heimlich left the baseball team to avoid being a distraction.
He declined to comment except for a brief statement in which he said he had taken responsibility for his actions as a teenager.
In this week’s interview he said that he has nothing to say to critics who are calling for him to be removed from the Oregon State team.
‘They can have their opinions of me. Ultimately the people around me know who I am. That is what matters. Everybody else can say what they want,’ he said.
Despite his past Heimlich said he’s been approached by most major league teams including top owners and managers.
The victim’s mother, however, firmly believes that Heimlich should not be able to play ever again, whether it be in college or the pros.
She said her daughter’s case ‘will only go away when Luke is out of the light. If he makes it to the big leagues, he will be in the light forever. Any accomplishment he makes will shine the light on her.’
‘I don’t think he is a terrible person,’ she said. ‘I think he did a terrible thing.’
It is still unclear whether Oregon State officials knew about the case before the news broke last summer.
After the university reviewed the case last year, president Ed Ray issued a statement saying it would ‘welcome all educationally qualified students, including those rehabilitated from past crimes’.
Heimlich’s coach added: ‘He’s a fine young man, and for every second that he has been on this campus, on and off the field, he has been a first-class individual — someone his family should be proud of, our community should be proud of and his team is proud of.’
He’s also still popular among Oregon State fans.