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Coach arrested after party with players

Well-known youth soccer league president and substitute teacher arrested and faces misdemeanor charges after wild, end-of-year party for the private De Anza Force club team

A major figure in Peninsula youth soccer has been arrested and faces misdemeanor criminal charges of providing alcohol to four 18-year-old women team members at an end-of-year party that included "streaking" nude and sexual intercourse with three of the players, according to San Jose police reports and court documents.

The suspect, Jeff van Gastel, 34, of San Jose, is the former Palo Alto High School varsity girls' soccer coach and a substitute teacher with the Palo Alto Unified School District.

He is the founder and president of the De Anza Force Soccer Club in Cupertino, and coaches two of the nine girls' teams in the club. He also is president of a regional league that represents nearly 300 soccer teams.

The party was reportedly for the De Anza Force club team only, not for the Paly school team.

Van Gastel was arrested Aug. 10 for providing alcohol to four 18-year-old women players at an end-of-season barbecue that turned into an all-night party, which he hosted at his parents' house in San Jose June 7. He was released on $15,000 bail. His arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 12 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

The misdemeanor alcohol charges stem from an initial allegation of "sexual assault" made by two of the women involved and their parents. But a San Jose Police Department report filed with the court concluded that the women were not minors and didn't appear to be forced into any sexual activity.

After reportedly providing them with beer and margaritas at the party, van Gastel had sex with three of the women players, according to the police and investigators' reports filed with the court.

While one woman says it was consensual, the two others accused van Gastel of sexual assault, saying their "judgment was impaired because they were intoxicated," according to the police report. It is unknown exactly how many people attended the party, but both current and past team members reportedly attended.

About a week after the party, two women and their parents "got together and decided to report the incident" to the San Jose Police Department, according to the police report.

Van Gastel admitted to providing alcohol to women at his parents' house and having sex with three of them, according to the report.

No other charges have been filed, and Deputy District Attorney Michael Fletcher said he is not aware of any further investigation regarding the sexual assault allegations.

"The case is closed," San Jose Police spokeswoman Gina Teepoorten said.

"I believe as far as this particular event, what is issued is all that is going to be issued," Fletcher said. "Having sex with somebody (18 or over) is not a crime even if they provided you with alcohol."

Repeated attempts to reach van Gastel were unsuccessful.

Van Gastel, who lives in San Jose with his wife and child, has strong ties to youth and college soccer programs throughout the Bay Area, especially in the South Bay. He served as Paly's varsity girls' soccer coach for six years. He resigned about two weeks ago to take a job at Menlo College as an assistant women's soccer coach.

After learning of the charges, Menlo College officials suspended him "from all duties."

"The college had no knowledge of the allegations until yesterday and is currently conducting an investigation," Caitlin Collier, the college's director of athletics, wrote in an e-mail to the Weekly.

One of van Gastel's major positions is serving as president of the Abronzino Youth Soccer League, a club league with almost 300 of the most competitive youth teams in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. It is an affiliate of the California Youth Soccer Association (CYSA), the governing body for most competitive club soccer in Northern California. Van Gastel serves on the association's District 2 board of directors, and has coached in its Olympic Development Program.

CYSA chairman John Murphy, on learning of the charges Thursday morning, did his own verification, and said van Gastel has been suspended from all activities connected or relating to the CYSA and any affiliated leagues or operations.

"The number-one objective for us is we do whatever we can to remove the person from any access to kids," Murphy said. "There are 100,000 coaches, referees, team moms bringing oranges, trying to make this work"

The case "leaves all of us with a real deep feeling of basic betrayal."

The 2004-2005 CYSA Team Manual's chapter on risk management states: "Physical contact should be limited to that necessary and appropriate to teach a skill, treat an injury, console or congratulate a player. In the instance of teaching a skill, minimal contact should be involved and none which places the adult in a position of power or intimidation."

The guidelines include restrictions on "touching in a one-on-one situation" and that a "non-parent/custodian adult shall not share any sleeping arrangement with a player or players" during an out-of-town tournament.

Soccer was a large part of van Gastel's life.

In 1999, he founded the De Anza Force and started with two girls' teams. He now coaches the under-13- and under-17-year-old girls' teams, according to the De Anza Force Web site. A "club" is a group of teams of various ages and skill levels that operate under one name. In the past six years, van Gastel's club has grown to 16 teams, including seven boys' teams and nine girls' teams.

There are nearly 30 coaches who work together to move players between teams according to skill and what is best for their individual talents. Many of the players have gone on to play collegiate soccer at universities such as Notre Dame, UC Berkeley and Gastel's alma mater, Loyola Marymount University, according to the club Web site.

The goals of the club are thoughtful.

"The De Anza Force will be a wholly united soccer family, where players will have the opportunity to advance from the youngest age groups to the top level age groups within a single organization," according the club's Web site. "Everyone in the (club), family members included, will feel the pride of each team bearing the club name."

According to the police report, van Gastel hosts an end-of-season barbecue for club teammates every year.

One team member at the party, also 18, reported games of strip poker, in which participants remove items of clothing after losing a hand, according to the police report. She said that after drinking a margarita she became sick and passed out on van Gastel's parents' couch, according to the police report.

The two women alleging sexual assault against van Gastel report "streaking" nude through the neighborhood, according to the report. They told police that van Gastel "possibly spiked the margaritas with a drug to get them in the state they were in," according to the report.

Van Gastel "adamantly denied lacing the victim's drinks with any type of drugs," according to the report.

The police report concluded that "there is no evidence to suggest that force, threats, or drugs were involved. The victims and witnesses were conscious and were willing participants."

Phil Schnayerson, van Gastel's attorney, emphasized on Wednesday that "sex between consenting adults, that's not illegal" and that no felony charges are involved.

Van Gastel holds a substitute teaching credential with the state Department of Education. Speaking in generalities, Marilyn Cook, an assistant superintendent with the Palo Alto Unified School District, said when a substitute is convicted of any charge, it automatically hits a computer database of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Every school district with that substitute in its files gets an e-mail alerting them to the activity. She said there are certain offenses that would automatically revoke someone's substitute teaching credential, but couldn't say whether four charges of giving alcohol to persons under 21 would have that effect.

"Our practice has been to be very conservative on the side of protecting kids," Cook said. "We're in the most serious business you can be in: making sure we're keeping our kids safe."

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