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Volunteer coach facing charges for taping female student changing

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 14 2014 05:02:39 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 15 2014 12:55:30 PM CDT

A high school coach in Carbon County is facing charges that could land him on the state sex offender registry.

PALMERTON, Pa. -

A high school coach in Carbon County is facing charges that could land him on the state sex offender registry.

Police say Rob Eckhart, 41, secretly videotaped a teenage student changing clothes in a school bathroom.

Eckhart is facing three child sex abuse counts.

State Police said the alleged incident happened at Palmerton Area High School on Feb. 8.

Arrest records allege that Eckhart, a volunteer strength coach, used his cell phone to secretly record a 17-year-old girl that he was training while she was undressing.

News of Eckhart's arrest surprised many students.

"Stuff happens, but you wouldn't expect it to happen so close to home," said student Devin Rodriguez.

Troopers said the girl confronted Eckhart immediately.

After a few days of denials, investigators claim the coach offered up a written confession.

"I cannot characterize it as a confession because I have not seen it," said Eckhart's attorney, George Dydynsky.

Eckhart is a well-known, nationally-ranked power lifter.

The head of his local lifting club said Friday he's stunned by the allegations.

"My client has a great reputation in the community, and he's got no criminal record -- no ties to anything nefarious at all," said Dydynsky.

One student, who asked not to be identified, agreed.

"Yeah, he's a good guy," he said.

Eckhart turned over the cell phone in question.

State Police are now analyzing it at their lab in Wilkes-Barre, a process that could take months.

Trooper Erin Snyder said she did not know if investigators had found the alleged video on the phone.

Palmerton school leaders didn't return calls, but according to Snyder, the district removed Eckhart as soon as the allegations came up.

"That's kind of weird, because I was going out for football last year and I didn't," said student Brett Evans.

According to State Police, if Eckhart is convicted, two of his charges would automatically make him a registered sex offender.

Eckhart's attorney said they are still deciding whether to approach prosecutors about a possible plea deal.