Author and journalist Irvin Muchnick today sued the University of California under the state Public Records Act. The petition in Alameda County Superior Court, Case No. RG17857115, alleges that UC Berkeley and other units of the UC system have withheld public records related to the 2014 death of Cal football player Ted Agu and to a precursor 2013 player-on-player beating incident in the strength and conditioning program of then head coach Sonny Dykes’ assistant Damon Harrington.
Concussion Inc. has written extensively about both the Agu death and the earlier criminal assault, which critics of the football program argue was incited by Harrington and his coaching methods. Chronological headline links to our three and a half years of coverage are at http://concussioninc.net/?p=10877.
Last year Concussion Inc. published the ebook The Ted Agu Papers, a collection of public documents, most of them deposition transcripts in the Agu family’s wrongful death lawsuit against the university, which settled for $4.75 million. Among other things, the papers reveal that:
* Cal’s then football head physician, Dr. Casey Batten (now with the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League), lobbied the county medical examiner for a snap finding of generic heart failure in the Agu death. (Batten withheld from the coroner the medical staff’s knowledge of Agu’s sickle cell trait; the revelation of this fact during the Agu family civil lawsuit discovery and deposition process led the medical examiner to make a rare retrospective revision of the original finding of cause of death.)
* The university withheld from the Alameda County sheriff’s office, investigating on behalf of the medical examiner, more than 100 pages of documents pertinent to the Agu death.
* A whistleblower member of the football team complained to both Cal administrators and campus police about the role of Harrington’s coaching methods in both the player-on-player beating incident and the Agu death three months later.
(The Agu Papers ebook is available on Amazon Kindle at http://amzn.to/2aA2LDl. All royalties are being donated to sickle cell trait research and education.)
Shortly after Agu died, the university conducted a general review of the football strength and conditioning program. In the face of faculty and media criticism that this review had been marred by conflicts of interest, Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks last year ordered a second review, which is ongoing.
Concussion Inc. will have facsimile and full-text versions of Muchnick’s state court complaint tomorrow. At this time we are not uploading the 18 accompanying exhibits. However, some of them have previously been published in the course of our coverage — most notably a campus police incident report on the player-on-player beating. That document, in redacted form, was released to the Daily Cal newspaper in May 2016, yet not given to Concussion Inc. until February 2017.
Muchnick’s attorney Roy S. Gordet wrote in today’s filing that what is “especially egregious” in the University of California’s actions “is the implied representation that there is not a single email generated by a UCB official, including without limitation Dirks, former Vice Chancellor John Wilton, former Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, or former Deputy Athletic Director Solly Fulp, that reflected administrative deliberation” over the two incidents on strength coach Harrington’s watch.” Gordet added: “In the absence of backup to support the ostensible blanket representation that no responsible UC Berkeley administrator so much as transmitted a single email with respect to events giving rise to a death of a student on campus and a multimillion-dollar institutional liability in that death, any contention that the Regents fully complied with the Public Records Act under the facts described in this Petition is not plausible.”
In an unrelated federal Freedom of Information Act case involving the American immigration file of fugitive former Irish Olympic swimming coach George Gibney, an accused serial rapist, Muchnick recently prevailed in U.S. District Court. The government’s appeal of Judge Charles R. Breyer’s decision is now pending at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.