Inside a dark room on Fredericton's Graham Avenue, Lonzel Lowe crawled into bed with an intoxicated woman.

The former university basketball player unzipped her pants and began touching her without her consent.

He was convicted of sexual assault in 2015. In May of 2016, Lowe, then 27, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and his name was added to the sex offender registry for 10 years, according to a Daily Gleaner story about the court case.

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In October of 2016, he began coaching an under-12 boys' basketball team with the Fredericton Northside Minor Basketball Association.

When questioned by a concerned mother, the association's president defended Lowe, saying his criminal past doesn't have anything to do with children or sports.

"His contribution to the basketball community is among the best," association president Anthony Howland wrote to the mother.

It's left Sara Fawson, the mother who contacted the association, wondering how a registered sex offender could be allowed to coach a minor sports team.

'How can they say he brings a lot to the community when he victimized somebody in the community?' - Sara Fawson, concerned mother

"How can they say he brings a lot to the community when he victimized somebody in the community?" she said.

Lowe declined an interview request by email, saying he's trying to move on with his life.

He's been removed from the association's coaching roster for the upcoming season.

Sending a message

Lowe is a former University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University basketball player.

In addition to sexual assault, he was also convicted of assault and four counts of breaching a court order. 

Fawson was looking for an activity for her daughter when she spotted Lowe's name on the Northside Minor Basketball Association Facebook page. She recognized it from newspaper coverage of his sexual assault trial. 

Sara Fawson

Sara Fawson was shocked to find out that a registered sex offender was coaching youth basketball in Fredericton. (CBC)

She assumed the association didn't know about Lowe's criminal past.

"Initially, I commented on the post saying, 'Are you aware one of these coaches is a convicted sex offender?'" she said.

"They deleted my comment and sent me a Facebook message and said they were aware, but he contributes a lot to the community and they had decided he was no risk."

In that Facebook message, Howland also told Fawson that Lowe has the support of him and "the seven women on our board."

'For them to decide that he provides a lot to the community and is worthy of coaching children sends a message that they don't really care about what happened to that victim.' - Sara Fawson, concerned mother

Fawson doesn't believe a convicted sex offender should be allowed to volunteer with children, even if he was never convicted of a crime involving a child.

She believes the association's attitude sends the wrong message to young boys, who may have looked up to Lowe as a role model.

"For them to decide that he provides a lot to the community and is worthy of coaching children sends a message that they don't really care about what happened to that victim," she said.

'A gap'

Howland, the president of the Northside Minor Basketball Association, declined an interview request.

He sent an emailed statement saying Lowe is no longer coaching with the organization.

Lonzel Lowe

Lonzel Lowe, a former university basketball player, has been removed as a coach with Fredericton's Northside Minor Basketball Association. (Facebook)

Every coach requires a background check at the beginning of each season, but Howland said Lowe didn't have one on file for the past season.

"We have identified a gap in our follow-up process on the administrative side, however, and have used this opportunity to make the necessary adjustments to our procedure going forward," Howland wrote.

He didn't explain how long the organization knew about Lowe's past or why he initially backed him.

That doesn't sit well with Fawson.

"Aside from needing to do background checks and be really aware of the criminal history of whoever they're hiring, the attitude needs to change as well."

A patchwork system

CBC News surveyed several minor sports organizations in New Brunswick, asking how they screen volunteers, and found a patchwork of regulations.

Nearly every organization requires a criminal background check from all of its volunteers.

But most only need a new one every three years, relying on volunteers to tell them if they're charged with a crime.

Almost all organizations offered a flat-out no when asked if they'd allow a convicted sex offender to coach on a team, even if their crime didn't involve children.

David McTimoney

David McTimoney, the Anglophone West School District superintendent, said someone with a criminal record who wants to volunteer would be assessed on a case-by-case basis. (CBC)

Others said it would depend on the situation.

"Any criminal record check that comes back as showing positive for having a criminal record is assessed on an individual basis," said David McTimoney, superintendent of the Anglophone West School District.

"Ultimately, we will always take into account the safety of our students. That's our primary goal."

At the Fredericton District Soccer Association, only competitive coaches require screening.

They're likely to spend more time with players, according to Dennis van den Heuvel, the association's executive director.

But he wants to change the association's rules so every coach is screened.

"We feel that, for the most part, we know our volunteers fairly well," van den Heuvel said.

"But again, of course there's always the chance you don't know them well enough."

CBC NB Investigates