LANCASTER – Sniffles, soft sobs and sighs could be heard throughout an Antelope Valley courtroom Thursday during the reading of a verdict, which found longtime local soccer coach Renoir Valenti guilty of molesting and sexually abusing more than a dozen young boys.
“This verdict is really for all the children in the Antelope Valley. It’s been a long time coming,” said prosecutor Jon Hatami, himself visibly emotional as the verdict was read.
Valenti, an AYSO coach who used numerous aliases, was convicted of molesting 14 boys, six of whom were soccer players he coached, and a young girl. Valenti’s victims ranged from 8 to 12 years old at the time of the crimes, and the incidents occurred between 1995 and 2012.
Over the course of the 35-day trial, jurors reviewed 140 exhibits and heard testimony from 58 witnesses, including all of Valenti’s victims.
Many of the male victims’ stories were similar. They were drawn to Valenti because he lavished them with gifts and took them on trips; they often spent nights at Valenti’s home; and Valenti showered them with hugs and kisses, which then progressed to something more. The disturbing testimony on the sexual abuse ranged from accounts of genital fondling to attempted anal rape.
Valenti is a classic pedophile, a master manipulator, and a liar who used his position as a youth soccer coach to gain the trust of single moms, so that he could prey on their children, Hatami told the jury during closing statements.
“There is absolutely no motive for all these young boys to lie about something like this,” Hatami said. Hatami asked jurors to focus on key pieces of evidence that corroborated the victims’ stories, including DNA from Valenti’s saliva found on the crotch of a young male victim’s underwear and soccer shorts, and “love letters” that Valenti had written to some of his victims.
“He just regurgitates love letters over and over,” Hatami told the jury. Read one of the letters here.
Valenti’s court appointed defense attorney, Michael Morse, urged the jury to ignore the “amount of hysteria” often associated with child sex abuse cases. Valenti was trying to help the kids, and there was nothing nefarious or sexual about it, Morse told the jury during closing statements.
“Renoir denies all of this,” Morse said.
The jury didn’t buy it.
After deliberating for just four hours, they found Valenti guilty on all 20 criminal charges, including five felony counts of continuous child abuse, four felony counts of lewd act upon a child, six misdemeanor counts of child molesting, four felony counts of procuring and offering false or forged instrument, and one count of disobeying a court order.
Juror #6 sounded off outside the courtroom shortly afterward, saying Valenti was a manipulator and a phony.
“There was no question that this guy is guilty… this really pisses me off,” the juror said. “Let that be a warning to all the other pedophiles out there.”
Hatami said he cried “tears of joy” after the verdict, because he’d felt a personal responsibility to put Valenti away.
“He’s terrorized young boys for almost 20 years, and it’s finally over,” Hatami said.
Morse said it was a difficult case to defend because there were so many victims, but he said Valenti was not the only one to blame.
“Somebody should really look at the parents who basically dumped their kids on him for years and years,” Morse said.
Valenti faces a 154-years-to-life sentence in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 18.
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