“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
Last week I received evident confirmation from the Alameda County sheriff’s office that it never received from the University of California-Berkeley campus police a statement by football player Joey Mahalic in March 2014.
As a result of this suppression or convenient oversight — take your pick — the authorities never incorporated the Mahalic information, concerning the peculiar-in-the-extreme strength and conditioning program of head coach Sonny Dykes’ assistant, Damon Harrington, into investigation of either Ted Agu’s death during a conditioning drill, in February 2014, or the concussion and hospitalization of Fabiano Hale, from a Harrington-inspired beating by teammate J.D. Hinnant in November 2013.
In Concussion Inc.’s exclusive coverage, we already have reported on the civil lawsuit deposition in which Harrington described what he told police. We also have presented deposition testimony from both an Alameda County sheriff’s lieutenant and the county coroner, establishing that Mahalic’s statement (along with another player’s) was among the more than 100 pages of supplementary reports by Cal police, in the wake of Agu’s death, that were never forwarded to county authorities.
In response to a public information request, the county sheriff now has told me Mahalic’s statement is not in its records. The response document was uploaded to http://muchnick.net/acsheriff.pdf.
Just before the Agu death incident, the Alameda County district attorney decided not to press charges against Hinnant over the earlier incident but left the case open. The district attorney has not asked Cal police for the Mahalic statement and has not explained why.
I also have a request for the Mahalic statement in the California Public Records Act pipeline at Cal. Last week the university estimated eight weeks for a full response. It’s not clear whether that is eight weeks from last week or eight weeks from the earlier submission of my request. The Cal PRA office declined to release a log of records requests — a piece of public information I have routinely acquired in the past from other agencies — in order to track the progress of this request in the queue and details on who else might be filing requests these days.
A separate but related set of public records concerns a testified review of conditioning coach Harrington’s program by UC Davis sports medicine co-director Dr. Jeffrey Tanji. So far all we really know about it is that Harrington testified, in his deposition in the Agu case, that the upshot was that Harrington got suspended … for one day. Berkeley, Davis, and the UC system president’s office all have promised compliance in the near future with assorted connected requests.
Meanwhile, we can count State Senator Loni Hancock among the elected leaders who are indifferent to the scandal of death and cover-up in Cal football. Last week a Hancock staffer called to tell me that the senator would not be responding to Concussion Inc.’s questions because she’s too busy doing the work on behalf of her constituents in California’s 9th district, of whom I am one.
For those of you keeping score, Hancock also is a former mayor of the city of Berkeley and the wife of current mayor Tom Bates, who played football at Cal.
Here are the unanswered questions to Senator Hancock:
- The Alameda County District Attorney early in 2014 “deferred” prosecution of Cal football player J.D. Hinnant in an essentially undisputed criminal physical assault of teammate Fabiano Hale on November 1, 2013. Though this decision was consistent with principles of prosecutorial discretion, it was made prior to the submission to Berkeley campus police, by former player Joey Mahalic, of a formal statement regarding the alleged incitement of Hinnant by strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington. The statement was made during the investigation of Mr. Agu’s death (which Mr. Mahalic also witnessed). Despite acknowledging that the Hinnant-Hale incident remains an open prosecutorial matter until the expiration of the criminal statute of limitations in November of this year, the District Attorney’s office refuses to explain why they have not asked Cal police for the Mahalic statement. Do you agree with my view that the District Attorney should ask for the Mahalic statement and evaluate it for further investigation of the Hinnant-Hale incident? (And if you do not agree, please explain why.)
- In the event the District Attorney rebuffs any possible advocacy by you in this matter, would you escalate this question to the State Attorney General?
- I have filed with UC Berkeley a California Public Records Act request for a copy of the Mahalic statement. Do you support that effort — on grounds of transparency, at minimum — and if so, will you communicate your support to the University?
- The “Agu Papers” highlight numerous other alarming questions. For example, the official account of Mr. Agu’s death differs, materially and significantly, from the sworn testimony of every single eyewitness to the tragedy, excepting Coach Harrington and now-departed athletic trainer Robert Jackson. For another example, there is reason to believe that Dr. Casey Batten, Cal football’s head physician, both wrongfully withheld from the Alameda County Medical Examiner information about Mr. Agu’s sickle cell condition, and outrageously attempted to “spin” a snap finding (and one ultimately revised) that the cause of death was a random heart attack. And for yet another example, Cal police withheld from the Alameda County Sheriff (supervising office of the Medical Examiner) more than 100 pages of reports and supplements — including statements by Mr. Mahalic and another player. Please comment. Please also share with my readers whether you are forwarding this material to your Senatorial colleagues on the Standing Committee on Education.
- The settlement of Agu v. UC Regents requires, in my view, much deeper public scrutiny and much improved transparency. The Regents approved the settlement as an interim agenda item between meetings, and thus never discussed its consideration publicly. The monetary figure itself, $4.75 million, is a significant sum in light of the historic budget crisis on the Berkeley campus. The consequence of deep cuts in academic programs, the institution’s core mission, seems dissonant without parallel hearings on the fiscal impact of the Agu scenario; on the concurrent sexual harassment scandal in Cal athletics; and on general budget subsidies of the debt service on a Memorial Stadium retrofit that has been executed on the basis of a horrible and obviously failing business model. Please comment. Please also share with my readers whether you are forwarding these concerns to your Senatorial colleagues on the Subcommittee on Education of the Standing Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review.