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On a Colorado road trip, Keech says he gave a talk to his players about abstinence. Keech says he gives all of his teams' players, male and female, a speech about setting boundaries and making smart choices. He had never heard a complaint until he spoke to the Storm in 2005. Herd and another parent weren't happy and pulled Keech aside in the hotel. Herd told Keech not to talk about sex with Shorty. Keech agreed and chalked up the confrontation to another negative in what he calls his "most difficult, worst coaching experience." Keech told himself it was just a bad season.
A woman with a brown shawl wrapped around her neck returns to the courtroom with Shorty's sheets of notebook paper. The woman is a victim's advocate with the FBI. The bikers follow and, finally, so does Shorty.
Shorty sits among bikers in the back of the courtroom. Her eyes are wide and filled with fright. A tattooed biker wearing sunglasses drapes one arm around Shorty's shoulders.
Herd's 18-year plea deal was hammered out 30 minutes before his case was to go to trial. Now, he sits with a calm look on his face, his family behind him.
Meanwhile, Shorty has lost her mother, sisters and grandparents. The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services took custody of her after the allegations against Herd were made.
When the hearing begins, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Martin tells U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil that Shorty is satisfied with the plea agreement. Shorty was relieved when prosecutors called and told her that they had made a deal, Martin says. She didn't want this to go to trial, and she didn't want to testify.
But the sentence doesn't satisfy Vratil, who says she is "extremely disinclined to accept this plea." She says an 18-year sentence would only reward Herd for what he did to his stepdaughter.
For the first time, Shorty was going to speak. But today, she is too emotional. The FBI advocate reads Shorty's statement. "I came here today to tell how this has impacted my life," the woman reads. Shorty lost her entire family because of Herd. She takes pills for depression. She was in therapy but had to quit because she moved. She hardly sleeps. She has nightmares. She's afraid that Herd will find her and kill her. She can't keep a job. And her social life is wrecked; people look at her differently. "I didn't have a chance to be a kid," the woman reads. "He took my childhood from me."
Meanwhile, Herd's attorney, Dent, tells the judge that his client just wants this to end. Herd wants to be sentenced to a sex-offender treatment center in North Carolina and a drug- and alcohol-abuse treatment program. Herd, Dent says, is "trying to be a better person."
The first time Herd speaks, he says he's sorry. Herd says he rejected interview requests from media outlets. (Dent declined an interview request from The Pitch for him and his client.) Herd says his family is "stronger and a lot more loving" since his arrest, and his family includes Shorty. "She is part of our family," Herd says. "Things happen for a reason no one has any control over."
Kindra Herd wipes away tears as Jesse Herd speaks.
"I really just want to change," he says. His voice is lost in his heavy weeping. Herd says he was an alcoholic during the abuse. He says he has found Jesus and leads an hourlong prayer group in his cell every night.
He makes constant references to how close and loving his family has become since he allegedly molested his stepdaughter and let men gang-rape her. Court records show that Kindra Herd filed for divorce on April 24, 2007, in Wyandotte County District Court, but she withdrew the petition June 27. The Herds were married on December 12, 1992. Kindra Herd brought two girls into the marriage. Through the 1990s, they had two daughters together.