LAKE CITY, Fla. – A former high school soccer coach accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student pleaded not guilty Wednesday to child sex and custody interference charges.
Rian Rodriguez, 27, faces a maximum of 35 years in prison on the two charges. He is expected to be in court again Jan. 26.
Rodriquez was caught in Syracuse, New York, with a Columbia County teenager who had been reported missing by her family, authorities said. He had been planning to buy bogus credentials so the two could leave the country, according to police.
Rodriguez was charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor, which was upgraded to a first-degree felony because he was in a position of authority over the girl, who was a soccer player at the high school where Rodriguez was a boys soccer coach. Rodriguez is also charged with interference with child custody, a third-degree felony.
Rodriguez was brought back to Columbia County after choosing not to fight extradition from New York.
Court documents show that both Rodriguez and the girl admitted to a sexual relationship when they first met with investigators after being caught in New York.
A judge said during Rodriguez's first appearance hearing that the planning that went into the pair's getaway was what was most concerning in the case.
Rodriguez and Caitlyn Frisina were at the center of a nationwide search after the teen ran away from home last month. Authorities found the pair near Syracuse on Dec. 1.
(Editor's Note: News4Jax typically does not name victims of sex crimes, but Frisina has already been the subject of national news.)
The school district said during the search for the pair that Rodriguez had been fired for not showing up to work. Rodriguez reportedly had started a new job in New York to fund his travels with Frisina.
The defense, prosecution and Frisina's parents declined to comment.