A youth soccer coach and collegiate referee from Mobile was arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12 this week following an investigation led by the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
According to Mobile County Metro Jail records, James Eric Ackermann was arrested Monday, Sept. 10, before making bond the same day. While he’s charged with the sexual abuse of a child, there’s been no indication the allegations stem from any of his activities as a local soccer coach and referee.
The initial complaint against Ackermann gives little context about the nature of the allegations he faces but did list the victim as one of his relatives. Separate filings from a domestic relations case in August show that Ackermann’s ex-wife recently sought a court order to prevent him from visiting their children.
The same court document notes that Ackermann was “being investigated by DHR for sexually abusing [a relative]” as recently as Aug. 10, 2018. It also accuses him of trying to interfere with DHR’s investigation.
“[He ] had to be removed from the Care House in Bay Minette by the police on Aug. 3 because he appeared there while the forensic interview [with the alleged victim] was being conducted, despite no one having notified him of the same,” the document reads. “[He] behaved in an erratic manner and refused to leave after being told to do so by staff.”
According to jail records, Ackermann has been arrested previously for patronizing a prostitute and third-degree domestic violence in 2012 and 2016, respectively. State court records do not show the conclusions of those cases, though both are listed as “closed” by the Mobile County Sheriff Office.
A Mobile resident, Ackermann previously coached for the Mobile United Football Club but was not working as a coach this year, according to Executive Director Wayne Etheridge. He also gave no indication that any of the allegations Ackermann faces are related to his work in the local soccer community.
“The safety of our children is our primary concern, and from what I’ve been able to ascertain, this is a domestic issue,” Etheridge said. “[Ackermann] has coached for just about everybody in the area including the local schools. We’ve never had any issues with him.”
Etheridge said Ackermann is certified to coach through the Alabama Soccer Association [ASA] and said background checks are a part of that process. He said Mobile United FC does not “have staff that does background checks” on its own but always uses certified coaches.
Lagniappe reached out to Executive Director Jennifer Pfeiffer to ask about ASA’s background check procedures and whether Ackermann’s previous criminal charges showed up during those processes but she declined to speak.
“We have no comment,” an email from Pfeiffer reads.
Online records indicate Ackermann is, or at least was, a certified referee as well. He was named a “2007 Regional Referee of the Year” by the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association and has also previously officiated matches for the University of South Alabama women’s soccer team.