Robert Barke
Robert Barke

A former Broomfield gymnastics coach accused of sexually assaulting two teen boys testified at his trial Wednesday, describing himself as a coach and mentor, and saying he never behaved inappropriately.

Robert Barke is accused of sexually assaulting two teens from October 2004 to June 2007 while he was their gymnastics coach at Xtreme Altitude Gymnastics in Broomfield.

During the second day of his trial on Wednesday, Barke testified that he never inappropriately touched the gymnasts, never showed them pornography and that he never made sexual advances toward any gymnast.

Barke pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust as a pattern of abuse, sexual assault on a child and unlawful sexual contact.

The alleged victims were teens at the time the alleged assaults began. The two, who were both questioned in court Tuesday, are now 21 and 22. In court on Tuesday, they said Barke was a role model until he began to make inappropriate sexual advances.

Barke on Wednesday told the jury the advances never occurred.

"Nothing sexually inappropriate happened, ever," he told the jury.

Tuesday, one of the alleged victims said he first looked up to Barke and felt Barke was someone he could trust and hang out with. When Barke moved from his Superior-area apartment to an apartment closer to Denver, he said he often "crashed" at Barke's apartment because it was close to his school.


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Barke told the jury the then-teen had never been to his Denver-area apartment, and that he had not seen the witness since he stopped coming to workouts several years ago.

The alleged victim also said Barke offered to share hotel rooms with him when the gymnastics team traveled to places such as Colorado Springs or Las Vegas, and that on at least two occasions, Barke masturbated in front of him or watched pornography.

During one road trip, the two played truth or dare, and the witness said he "somehow ended up naked" in the car.

Barke told the jury he never touched the alleged victim, took off his clothes in front of him or watched pornography with him. The game of truth or dare also never happened during the road trip, he said.

Barke said he did share hotel rooms with one of the alleged victims from time to time, because it was common for gymnasts and coaches to save money by staying together in larger rooms.

The second alleged victim, who also testified Tuesday, said Barke was his coach on and off when he was a teen, and that Barke would help him during private lessons and often drive him home afterward. He said he had about seven sexual encounters with Barke, including at Xtreme Altitude, in the office at the gym and at Barke's apartment.

Those encounters sometimes involved kissing, touching or masturbation, the alleged victim testified.

During his testimony on Wednesday, Barke denied those things took place. He said he never drove the then-teen home from practice and that there were no sexual encounters.

Barke told the jury the second alleged victim once came to the gym in a distraught state because his family was moving away from Colorado. After Barke comforted him and told him a story about his own experiences with moving to a new state, the teen kissed him, he said.

Barke said he backed away and told the boy not to kiss him again.

Barke never told anyone about the incident, he said, because "I knew he was embarrassed" and believed the kiss was part of the teen's stressed state of mind.

In 2013, after the alleged victim reported the incidents Broomfield police, he was instructed by a detective to call Barke and record the conversation.

The alleged victim told Barke he wanted to talk about his sexuality and his upcoming military deployment. During the hour-long call, he asked Barke if he remembered the "physical" experiences they had. On the recording, Barke said he did not remember anything other than the kiss. He said the two had "different interpretations" of what the kiss meant.

Barke told the jury he and the other coaches at Xtreme Altitude were known for creating a family atmosphere called a "gym-aly," where coaches, athletes and parents often went out for dinner, went bowling or did other activities together.

Three other witnesses also testified on Wednesday, among them was former Xtreme Altitude coach, Stephanie Perry. She told the jury that the gym was always full of students, parents and coaches, and gymnasts were not left alone with coaches.

Because the gym was so tight-knit, it was common for gymnasts to visit Barke's nearby apartment or go out with Barke and other coaches in groups, she said.

When Barke left Colorado to take a coaching job in Texas, one of his students, Jordan Valdez, asked to move with him. Valdez, who also testified on Wednesday, said he wanted to advance his gymnastics career, and wanted to do so with a coach he already knew.

Valdez was 17 when his parents gave him permission to move to Texas, and Barke became his legal guardian until he went to college.

Valdez said Barke made sure his homework was done on time, that his college applications were complete and that if his grades suffered, he would be pulled out of the gym to work on academics.

Valdez, a student at the University of Illinois, in April won the NCAA championship for the high bar. He credits Barke for helping him with his gymnastics career.

"Rob has done everything for me," he said.

Valdez said he never saw or heard anything from other gymnasts that sent up a red flag about Barke's behavior. Because the team was so tight-knit, they went everywhere together, he said.

One more witness will be called Thursday, and lawyers on both sides expect to make closing statements after the last witness testifies.

Broomfield police became aware of the alleged assaults in February 2013, after being contacted by the mother of one of the victims. Her son confided in her about the abuse, but initially did not want to go to police, because of how difficult it was to process the memories, according to the arrest affidavit.

The victim went to police after learning there was another victim, because he wanted to prevent other people from being abused, the affidavit stated.

Contact Enterprise Staff Writer Megan Quinn at 303-410-2649 or quinnm@broomfieldenterprise.com