“Explainer: How ‘Insider’ Access Made San Francisco Chronicle and Berkeley J-School Miss Real Story Behind Death of Cal Football’s Ted Agu,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=10931
Complete headline links to our Ted Agu series: https://concussioninc.net/?p=10877
Installments to date in THE TED AGU PAPERS:
by Irvin Muchnick
UPDATE NOON PDT May 10: Berkeley campus police chief Margo Bennett just told us, “UCPD has concluded its investigation into this case. We have no further actions to take on this case barring the District Attorney’s Office requesting further investigation.”
I’ve been calling the late Cal football player Ted Agu’s a black life that matters. I say so not only on general principle but also because his story shines light on the pathologies of America’s football system, which do not stop short of even serial negligent homicide.
But the precursor to Agu’s sudden death in February 2014, on a Berkeley campus hillside, during a bizarre early-morning “voluntary” offseason conditioning drill, was a pure white-on-white crime three months earlier.
Make that white-on-white-on-white: head coach Sonny Dykes’ strength and conditioning guru, Damon Harrington, playing Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Nathan R. Jessup from A Few Good Men, issued an evident “code red” on freshman running back Fabiano Hale for skipping one of the non-travel group’s grueling conditioning sessions.
Impressionable teammate J.D. Hinnant internalized Harrington’s message and administered a beating on Hale. The next day, the redshirted but up-and-coming offensive lineman Hinnant suited up for the Cal game. Hale, for his part, was dressed in a hospital gown at Alta Bates Medical Center.
It was Paul Hora, the assistant district attorney of Alameda County, who introduced me to the A Few Good Men imagery and concept in January 2014 — coincidentally, just days before Agu expired from a heart attack likely brought on by sickle cell trait (Cal knew about the latter but initially tried to conceal it).
In announcing “deferral” of a criminal charge against Hinnant, Hora told me there was “no” evidence of a code red. He didn’t say “insufficient evidence to warrant further intensive investigation in that direction.” He said none.
Why the prosecutor would invoke the elephant in the room, before sequentially and unequivocally shooting it down, conforms to my long experience with lawyers, who tend to articulate justice in binary terms. They’re trained to understand that a reasonable and measured narrative, no matter how educational or how hygienic for the larger public dialogue, only complicates their world of closely contained, black-and-white advocacy.
And so the Hinnant-Hale incident stood, “deferred” but for all intents and purposes buried, until we all learned more from the Ted Agu Papers. Those are official but previously unreleased records on the back story of his death, much of it from depositions in the family’s civil lawsuit against the university, which has settled for $4.75 million plus some combination of actual and lip-service “reforms.”
Last month Concussion Inc. published extended excerpts from the deposition of a Cal player at the time who, following Agu’s death, was so distressed by the arguable proximate cause — Damon Harrington’s maniacal coaching methods — that he came forward with a statement about it to the police. (We’re still running down the primary source document, but the police agency was almost certainly the Berkeley campus police, not the Alameda County sheriff as previously suggested here. The sheriff had jurisdiction only over the work of the county coroner in performing Agu’s autopsy and issuing a finding of cause of death.)
The deposition testimony — and the police statement itself, which could make its way into public circulation very soon, one way or the other — contained information that should curl the stomach of any parent who sends a student-athlete to Cal; or of any other citizen whose taxes subsidize this state institution; or of any member of a number of constituencies. The only exception is the win-at-all-costs, entertain-us-at-all-costs wing of Golden Bears fandom.
Yet the district attorney shows no will to go there: “We do not have, nor have we seen, the statement you refer to.” Implied, however, in the still-open status of the “deferral” of Hinnant’s prosecution is the possibility that they could if they would. The county prosecutor does, after all, have the authority to ask municipal and campus law enforcement agencies to turn over additional information on newly arisen investigative angles.
The Berkeley campus cops, closer to the center of this conspiracy of silence, won’t be coughing up the March 2014 statement to them about Harrington any time soon. Certainly not on their own. The case is “over and done with,” Lieutenant Marc LeCoulode cheerfully told me.
Deferred-but-over-and-done-with: this is the stuff of cover-ups. More often than slam-bang deals, they are cascading, interlocking, mutually self-interested half-truths that defy common sense, while emphatically undermining justice with a capital J.
So far, and even though it involves an explicit matter of life and death, Concussion Inc. remains alone in lifting the lid off this disgusting state of affairs at the public university football program of Sonny Dykes and Damon Harrington. In the name of Ted Agu and of decency, we will continue.