Former area coach pleads not guilty to assaulting wife

Published 10:45 am Friday, January 10, 2014

The Albert Lea girls’ hockey coach on Thursday pleaded not guilty in Freeborn County District Court to assaulting his wife.

Paul Anthony Willett, 42, of Albert Lea, faces charges of felony domestic assault by strangulation and misdemeanor domestic assault.

Willett’s public defender, Stephen Erickson, in court requested 10 days to review the evidence in his client’s case before deciding whether to contest any of that evidence or to move straight to trial. Erickson estimated the trial would last two days.

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Willett, who is on paid administrative leave, is accused of placing a hand around his wife’s throat at their home at 1709 Sunset St. early Nov. 17, according to court documents. He reportedly had returned home from drinking in downtown Albert Lea when the incident occurred.

In an interview with police, Willett told police he and his wife were in an argument but he denied that the disagreement had turned physical, according to court records.

Willett started as the Albert Lea girls’ hockey coach in 2010 and coordinated the Mite program for children age 9 and younger. He was a director for the Albert Lea Hockey Association, the ice scheduler and a member of the Hockey Advisory Committee. He was the first coach of the now-defunct Junior A hockey team Albert Lea Thunder but quit once he learned of a pay-to-play program started by the owner.