Lawyer says Villa will plead not guilty

WALPOLE, Mass. -- The lawyer for Danny Villa says the former New England Patriots player and high school football coach will plead not guilty to child rape charges.

Villa, who had been working as the football coach at Walpole High School, was arrested in Tucson on Saturday. He is expected to be returned to Massachusetts within a week to face three counts of rape of a child over 14 and three counts of enticing a minor.

"Mr. Villa intends to plead not guilty at his arraignment in Massachusetts," Villa's lawyer, Heather Baer, said a statement late Saturday.

Baer said that Walpole police had been told on Friday that Villa would surrender after returning from Arizona.

"On learning this afternoon that Arizona police were nevertheless seeking to arrest him on the Massachusetts charges, Mr. Villa turned himself in to local authorities," she said in the statement.

Walpole Police Chief Richard Stillman said Villa surrendered to Tucson authorities in his native Arizona at about 9 p.m. Saturday.

The 44-year-old Villa resigned as Walpole's coach on Tuesday, hours after schools superintendent Lincoln Lynch confronted him over allegations of criminal misconduct and placed him on paid administrative leave.

In a written statement, Lynch said he had received "a credible parent complaint related to the conduct of Mr. Daniel Villa" and after meeting with Villa "officially accepted his resignation from all positions at the Walpole Public Schools."

Stillman said the arrest has undermined trust in the town of 24,000 located about 30 miles outside of Boston.

Among the hardest hit were students and former Walpole High School football players, like Tim Pelletier who graduated in 2005 and played for Villa.

"He was a great coach, a great guy," Pelletier told WBZ-TV. "He was almost like a second father to all the players."

Villa led one of the most successful high school football programs in the state, capping an undefeated season with a championship earlier this month.

Villa played offensive line in the NFL for 12 seasons, including six with the Patriots and one with the Arizona Cardinals in 1992.

He starred at Arizona State from 1984-86 before being drafted by New England.