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Byline: Shawn Windsor and Jim Schaefer
Jan. 23--Originally published May 18, 2006 TECUMSEH They gathered in his home, the teenage boys and their high school coach. He supplied the cigars, the alcohol and the porn. They watched dirty movies, drank and talked about girls, the ones the boys desired, the ones the coach would help them get. He called his boys the Face Men: the swiftest, strongest, best-looking jocks in the school. Together, they plotted sex parties and schemed about their targets. Tecumseh High track coach Matthew Peterson hosted raucous parties for dozens of students, mixing them vodka and pop, pumping beer from a keg and acting as a kind of deviant emcee -- convincing girls and boys to pair off in his hot tub, in his bathroom, in his bedrooms. Gossip about sex and alcohol benders slowly filtered into the community in the summer of 2003 and eventually led to the coach's imprisonment two weeks ago. The Peterson party culture also led to convictions and citations against 13 students, including a former track star described by police as Peterson's lieutenant -- Michigan State University football player Cole Corey.
A Free Press investigation -- based on thousands of pages of police and court records, police evidence photos and dozens of interviews -- found that school officials and some parents knew for months, even years, that Peterson was corrupting the teens. But no one reported him to police. Not parents who knew their children had partied all night at Peterson's house. Or a school official who failed to report a rape allegation for two months, police said. School officials finally alerted police in February 2004 -- five months after they confronted Peterson about the underage drinking and allowed him to resign quietly.
Why then? They were threatened with a lawsuit. "I believe they didn't want to get into" finding the truth, said Tecumseh superintendent Mike McAran, who said he was hired last year to restore order to the district. "It's a rat's nest." High school sex and drinking aren't uncommon. Having a trusted figure facilitate the behavior is. "Coaches have an aura," said Dee Reau, who helped coach the girls track team. "Kids would do anything for you. They look up to you. He was manipulative and aggressive and led them astray." Jail officials would not allow an interview with Peterson. His attorney, Anna Marie Anzalone, said, "He sincerely regrets everything that happened. "He lost his family, his children, his wife, his respect in the community." As he was sentenced May 4 in a Lenawee County courtroom, a handful of parents and residents wept tears of relief and frustration. Some said they thought he got off easy. Peterson, 33, originally faced 32 charges related to the …