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Orange County Water Polo Coach Convicted of Sexually Abusing Players

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Content warning: this story contains information regarding sexual assault.

Irvine resident and water polo coach Bahram Hojreh was convicted for 22 felonies related to sexually assaulting minors on Nov. 16, 2022.

The jury found that 46-year-old Hojreh used his authoritative position as a respected water polo coach to commit sexual battery, sexual penetration of a minor with a foreign object, lewd acts to a minor and other crimes related to sexual assault and molestation.

Identified in court records, Hojreh’s former players and trainees were abused from 2012 to 2017. Victims included 10 water polo players, nine of which were minors between the ages of 13 and 17. According to a press release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA), Hojreh sexually assaulted underage players while coaching for the International Water Polo Club. Victims were assaulted in one-on-one sessions during public practices at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.

Hojreh coached water polo for over 25 years and was a prominent figure in the sport. He was employed at University High School in Irvine until March 2017 and also coached water polo at Kennedy High School in La Palma. Hojreh had additionally served on the board of directors for a regional chapter of USA Water Polo until 2018. 

According to the OC Register, allegations of sexual abuse and molestation surfaced in 2017 after victims told their parents about the crimes. The allegations were brought to law enforcement and investigated by the Los Alamitos Police Department. 

Criminal charges were filed against Hojreh in April of 2018. Prosecutors alleged that Hojreh committed nearly two dozen counts of felonies and misdemeanors to seven victims, including four counts of lewd acts upon a child and four counts of sexual penetration of a minor with a foreign object. The alleged crimes occurred between September 2014 and January 2018. 

Hojreh’s trial began in October 2022 as Deputy District Attorney Raquel Cooper led the prosecution. 

Around 12 alleged victims testified about the sexual assault perpetrated by Hojreh. Reported by the OC Register, one Jane Doe emphasized Hojreh’s misuse of authority and abuse of trust.

“He told us any college coach we could think of would be just one phone call away. All we had to do was keep practicing and he would get us to where we wanted to be,” Doe said.

Defense attorney John Barnett and Hojreh denied all allegations. Hojreh claimed allegations were made in “conspiracy” against him, as reported by the OC Register. Barnett questioned how acts of sexual abuse could have gone unnoticed during public practices attended by parents, players, coaches and spectators. 

“[The alleged victims] know one call and [Hojreh] is out of the pool and into cuffs,” Barnett said. “They have the power, not him.” 

The jury reached the verdict after less than three days of deliberation. Following the decision, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer commented on the impact of Hojreh’s crimes in a press release from the OCDA.

“These young women will spend the rest of their lives trying to forget these abhorrent moments of their childhood because someone they thought they could trust turned out to be a pedophile,” Spitzer said. “Thankfully, these brave girls had the courage to speak up about the abuse and prevented additional girls from being molested.” 

Hojreh has been banned for life from events affiliated with USA Water Polo. According to a press release by OCDA, Hojreh is currently in custody and is being held without bail. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2023. He faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in state prison and six months in the Orange County Jail.

Beatrice Lee is a City News Intern for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at beatrirl@uci.edu.