Originally created 07/18/04

Judge puts off coach's hearing



AIKEN - The bond hearing for a popular tennis pro charged with molesting two teenage students was postponed Saturday until Monday at the request of his attorney.

Aiken County Magistrate Judge Donna Williamson said John Wesley Dingle, 43, had agreed with his attorney to hold the hearing at a later time. The postponement allows the girls who brought charges against Mr. Dingle, or their representatives, to be present at the hearing, Ms. Williamson said, which they requested.

Mr. Dingle turned himself in to the Aiken Department of Public Safety late Friday night after authorities attained warrants for his arrest stemming from an investigation that began in December.

He is charged with four counts of sexual conduct in the third degree, four counts of lewd acts on a child, three counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of common law assault.

The tennis instructor had a lengthy teaching and playing career in Aiken and Augusta, stemming back to at least the early 1990s, when he coached at the Houndslake Country Club in Aiken.

He later taught at Woodside Country Club and Aiken's public courts at the H. Odell Weeks park. He also taught at South Aiken High School and most recently in Aiken at the Fermata Club on Whiskey Road. He hasn't taught at Fermata since June and was under contract before his arrest to give lessons at Fleming Tennis Center in Augusta, tennis instructors and police said.

Sgt. Turno said the alleged incidents began in 2001. He wouldn't say where the incidents took place, except that they didn't occur at any school.

"We certainly feel there could be additional victims," he said.

News of the allegations against Mr. Dingle astonished members of the tennis community who knew him. Several people said they couldn't believe the charges and declined to comment.

"He was just sort of like the most likable person you could imagine," said Richard Breakiron, who took lessons from Mr. Dingle at Fermata. "I just think everybody is shocked."

The instructor was well respected by his peers and taught from about 1998 to 2000 at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where he reportedly worked with star athletes such as Venus and Serena Williams.

He was even featured demonstrating tennis strokes on 12 pages of the Bollettieri Tennis Handbook.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.