Aurora coach released after family posts bail

January 5, 2009 1:20:42 PM PST
The embattled gymnastics coach convicted of inappropriately touching female students spoke with ABC7 Chicago exclusively Sunday night.An appellate court overturned Michael Cardamone's convictions in march, and late Saturday night, he was released on a $550,000-bond.

"I told you I was coming home," Cardamone said as he hugged his sons Sunday.

It was the first time he had hugged his boys, as a free man, in four and one-half years. The children arrived at Cardamone's mother's home in Oswego as he talked exclusively to an ABC7 producer.

"I missed first words and first steps and first birthdays," the former coach said.

The problems began in late in 2002. Cardamone faced 21 counts of inappropriately touching 14 girls. More than three years later, he was convicted on seven of the lesser counts of touching seven girls in his family's Aurora gym.

Cardamone was sentenced to 20 years in prison but has always denied the charges.

"Enough. How much more and how many more lives do you have to ruin so that you can get out from under this rock? No one's going to be mad for the truth. I'm not going to be mad. I let it go," Cardamone said tearfully.

Nine months ago, an appellate court said Cardamone did not get a fair trial and said prosecutors would have to re-try the case . One of Cardamone's biggest complaints was that the jury never got to see the open gym with hundred of students.

When asked if he had ever touched a student in his gym inappropriately, Cardamone responded, "Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I was a good coach. I am a good man."

DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett has not yet re-charged Cardamone in the case, but he did file new perjury charges, stemming from yet a separate case. Prosecutors said Cardamone harassed a mother of a witness, and they say he lied about it.

Cardamone says, no matter which charges he faces, he refuses to accept a plea deal.

"There is no possible chance I am going to erase history or rewrite it," he said.

Michael Cardamone's mother also faces forgery charges, connected to paperwork that was used to try to prove Cardamone was not guilty in his original trial.

The DuPage County state's attorney said on the phone Sunday night that Cardamone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but that he is disappointed in the appellate court's decision to re-try the case.

Prosecutor Joe Birkett says that decision was a blow to the victims and their families, who have also filed civil suits against the gym.