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Van de Leur Pleads Guilty to Extortion
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World and European silver medalist Verona van de Leur (Netherlands) is facing a prison sentence after pleading guilty to extortion charges. Pictured: Van de Leur at the 2005 Worlds in Melbourne

Retired Dutch star Verona van de Leur was in court Tuesday to face charges from a 2010 arrest, the Dutch media reported.

The world and European medalist pleaded guilty to charges of extortion, stemming from an incident in March 2010. Reportedly, van de Leur photographed two people in a park she believed were having an affair and demanded 3,000 euros (USD$4,300) in exchange for the photos.

The couple went to the police, who searched van de Leur's computer and discovered two videos and 144 photos of child pornography. A further search turned up an illegal weapon in a car.

While Van de Leur admitted to "misjudgment" on her part for the extortion attempt, she "disassociated" herself from the illegal material found on her computer. She and her lawyer, Freek van der Brugge, argued that multiple people had use of the computer.

Van der Brugge said a conviction on that charge would be devastating to the 25-year-old van de Leur.

"There's no intent. My client is totally atypical of someone interested in child pornography," van der Brugge. "Her future lies in the sport and in the coaching of athletes. For this you need a Certificate of Good Conduct."

Van de Leur already spent 72 days in jail after her arrest. The prosecutor is asking for a further 90 days in prison plus 80 hours of community service. The sentencing will be May 3.

Van de Leur was the leader of the breakout generation of Dutch gymnasts that shot to international prominence a decade ago. The Dutch won the team bronze medal at the 2000 Junior European Championships in Paris, where van de Leur picked up a second bronze on uneven bars. Fourteenth at the 1999 Worlds, the Netherlands rose to fifth at the 2001 Worlds in Ghent, where van de Leur finished ninth all-around. Teammate Renske Endel won the silver medal on uneven bars, the first world medal for a Dutch gymnast since 1903.

Van de Leur won three silvers (team, all-around and vault) and two bronzes (balance beam and floor exercise) at the 2002 Europeans in Patras, and followed it with the silver medal on floor exercise at the 2002 Worlds in Debrecen. She earned the title of "Dutch Sportswoman of the Year" for 2002.

Despite her success, she was relegated to team alternate at the 2003 Worlds. The Dutch finished 16th in 2003, failing to qualify a full team to the 2004 Olympics. Van de Leur left long-time coach Frank Louter and switched to Boris Orlov. The Netherlands finished 17th at the 2007 Worlds, again failing to qualify a full team to the next year's Olympics. She announced her retirement in June 2008.

In 2009, Van de Leur won a lawsuit against her father, whom she accused of misappropriating the money she earned from gymnastics competitions and sponsorships. Her father accused van de Leur's boyfriend of attacking him with a bat, but the court ordered him to pay back 62,000 euros (USD$88,900) to his daughter.

External Link: Official Verona van de Leur Website

Comments (3)add comment

Shawna said:

This is shocking. It sounds like she fell in with some bad people, and came from a crappy homelife to begin with. I believe she is innocent of the kiddie porn charges though. I've never heard of a female being arrested for that though I guess it happens. If she is convicted her life will be over.
April 20, 2011
Votes: +5
..., Low-rated comment [Show]

Margaret said:

The discovery of child pornography is the most disturbing news of all. This is just tragic, I've always liked Verona. I'll keep her in my prayers, and hope she turns her life around. She needs to face the music for her crimes but I hope she is rehabilitated.
April 20, 2011
Votes: +5

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