Coach who ran away with Florida teen now facing child sex charge

Rian Rodriguez, 27, planned to leave country with 17-year-old, police say

By Allyson Henning - Reporter, Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

LAKE CITY, Fla. - A former high school soccer coach who police said planned to leave the country with a 17-year-old student is now facing a child sex charge.

Rian Rodriguez, 27, was caught in Syracuse, New York, with the Columbia County teenager, authorities said. He had been planning to buy bogus credentials so the two could leave the country, according to police.

Rodriguez has been 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. He had previously been charged with interference with child custody, a third-degree felony.

He was brought back to Columbia County this week after choosing not to fight extradition from New York.

Rodriguez faces a maximum of 30 years in prison on the child sex charge and five years on the custody interference charge.

According to the charge, Rodriguez had sex with the teen multiple times. 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. 

Rodriguez faced a Columbia County judge Friday morning after being booked into the county's jail on Thursday. His mother and father were in the courtroom, along with the girl's mother.

The judge set bond for Rodriguez at $125,000 on the two charges. If Rodriguez bonds out, the judge ordered that he have no contact with the girl, her family or any other minors or children. He will have to surrender his passport, cannot drink alcohol and will have to wear a GPS monitor.

The judge said Friday morning 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.)

A friend of Frisina's said the teen, a Fort White High soccer player, was in a relationship with Rodriguez, who was the assistant coach for the boys team at the school, court documents show.

Frisina's father found several suggestive Snapchat messages between his daughter and Rodriguez after the two took off, police said.

“Her own statement was that she did most of the planning in this and that she pushed Rian to do that,” Rodriguez’s defense attorney said in court Friday. “I do think framing the age of the alleged victim and the statements that she’s made make this very different than a case of a much younger child who is coerced into doing something.”

The prosecutor then responded by saying that Rodriguez knew what he was doing was wrong, but continued to do it anyway.

When investigators asked Frisina about the relationship she said she "was not in a good place," was "under a lot of stress" and was "mentally and physically drained.”

When asked how she felt Rodriguez would handle a breakup, she told investigators in part that she "had no idea how to deal with it" and she "felt he would have tried to do something to ruin (her) life.”

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.

He is scheduled for a status hearing in Columbia County at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Rodriguez's parents, Frisina's mother and attorneys from both sides declined to comment after the hearing.

Copyright 2017 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.