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A School for Scandal
Alexander Wolff
February 26, 2001
Take a championship high school team, an NBA-ready 7-footer, a coach accused of molestation, a secretive summer-league operator and a community desperate for a winner, and you've got all the ingredients for...
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February 26, 2001

A School For Scandal

Take a championship high school team, an NBA-ready 7-footer, a coach accused of molestation, a secretive summer-league operator and a community desperate for a winner, and you've got all the ingredients for...

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"He asked me five to 10 times," Doe said in court. "I finally said yes...because I got tired of him asking me and I thought if I do this it will be over with." After five minutes or so of "pom-pom," Doe told Otis to stop. Then, Doe testified, "he stopped and I got up. And he was like, "Turn over.' And I was like, 'No.' And he, like, grabbed me...and I don't know when he had a chance to pull down his pants or anything like that. He just grabbed me and pushed inside of me and somehow I broke free."

At first Doe didn't share his story with his family. He told his mother only that he wanted to leave Dominguez. Eventually he divulged why, and when an uncle, former Dons assistant football coach Keith Brooks, found out, Brooks showed up at the school on Oct. 31, furious, determined to confront Otis. Instead, according to Brooks, he found Willie Donerson, a teacher and the school's former athletic director, and told him that Otis had been "messing" with his nephew.

Donerson calmed Brooks down. Doe's lawyer, Randy McMurray, claims that Donerson should have reported the allegations of abuse of a minor, but instead he rounded up Otis and drove over to Doe's home. There, Doe testified, "[Otis told me] I shouldn't...tell nobody because it will ruin his reputation and his family." Later, in the presence of Otis, and joined by his own family and Donerson, Doe backed off the account he had earlier shared with relatives. That night Doe told the L.A. County Sheriff's Department only that Otis had made inappropriate remarks to him. But the next day he returned to the sheriff's department to press his allegations of sexual abuse. On Nov. 2 Otis was arrested on charges of oral copulation and sodomy and a misdemeanor charge of child annoyance or molestation, and released on $100,000 bail.

Otis denies all criminal charges and says that, while he has helped kids in need, he has never given anything "outrageous" to them. His lawyer, Leonard Levine, says that Brooks didn't complain to Donerson that Otis had been "messing" with his nephew, only that the coach had made inappropriate remarks. Levine further contends that Doe leveled his original charges out of frustration over the news that a rival for a starting position had just become eligible, and that Doe is motivated by the money he might collect in a civil suit. As for the other witnesses at the preliminary hearing—two former Dominguez students, one of them a former player, described instances dating from the late 1980s in which Otis allegedly gave them money and other attention before molesting them—Otis's lawyer ascribes to them similar gold-digging motives.

Doe's lawyer, however, sees a case of a young man who came to Russell Otis in the hope of getting a college scholarship, and got molested instead. "[Donerson] took the perpetrator to the victim's house to try to quash this," says McMurray, an associate at Johnnie Cochran's law firm, who on Jan. 24 filed a formal claim against the Compton school district on Doe's behalf, the first step toward a suit for monetary damages. "The family has been devastated by this. But somehow the victim has been portrayed as a villain."

During the preliminary hearing, Doe alleged that one day in September, Otis produced an envelope and indicated that it contained $1,000. "He said it [was] mine," Doe testified. Doe added that Otis had taken the envelope from the visor of his Cadillac Escalade.

"That's the same kind of car that Tyson Chandler drives?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes," said John Doe.

THE TRAVELING-TEAM COACH

One day in the summer of 1996, while Tyson Chandler and his family still lived in San Bernardino, a team from the Los Angeles area traveled to Riverside Community College to challenge Tyson's AAU team of eighth-graders, the Inland Stars. The Southern California All-Stars featured some of the players who would become the stars of this year's high school recruiting class, including Cedric Bozeman (he has committed to play at UCLA next season), Josh Childress (he'll play for Stanford) and Jamal Sampson (he'll go to Cal). Tyson led a decisive spanking of the big-city visitors that day, thereby attracting the attention of the coach of the losers, a man named Pat Barrett.

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