“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:
Installments to date in THE TED AGU PAPERS:
by Irvin Muchnick
Lieutenant Marc DeCoulode of the University of California-Berkeley police has done far more damage control for Golden Bears football than he has directed serious investigation of allegations against head coach Sonny Dykes’ embattled strength and conditioning coach, Damon Harrington.
As long ago as November 9, 2013, DeCoulode preemptively and conclusively told the San Francisco Chronicle that there was no evidence Dykes “had any knowledge” of the circumstances of player J.D. Hinnant’s violence eight days earlier against teammate Fabiano Hale. (The Chronicle has repeatedly plastered Hale’s name and photo but has never named Hinnant in its coverage.)
Eight days earlier, Hinnant had sucker-punched and, reportedly, stomped Hale into emergency room triage and an overnight stay at Alta Bates Medical Center. On Halloween, Hale had skipped a conditioning session, and the consequence was that Harrington inflicted extra-special collective punishment on the players present. Multiple sources, including former backup quarterback Joey Mahalic, have described a “Code Red” suggestion by Harrington that Hale’s angry teammates take justice for him into their own hands.
On November 1, Hinnant — who as a “redshirt” wasn’t even eligible to play — had the honor of suiting up for the home game against Arizona. Hale was decked out in a hospital gown.
Three months later, Ted Agu was dead after Harrington and then athletic trainer Robbie Jackson ignored Agu’s multiple collapses during a bizarre hill-climbing and rope-pulling drill, custom-designed by Harrington, which a close Agu friend, teammate, and eyewitness would describe in a civil lawsuit deposition as “like an Army movie.”
A month after that, a conscience-stricken Joey Mahalic went to the cops to talk about Harrington’s maniacal ways, including the November coach-inspired vigilante assault on Hale.
“It’s over and done with,” Lieutenant DeCoulode told me in April of this year as he refused to discuss what the UC campus police did with the information they received tying together the Hinnant-Hale incident and the Agu death.
The police took Mahalic’s statement the month after Agu perished on February 7, 2014. Testimony by the former chief medical examiner for Alameda County would confirm that during the same period, Cal football team physician Dr. Casey Batten and other university officials were concealing from county authorities knowledge that Agu was a carrier of sickle cell trait, and forwarded to the county only a fraction of their investigative supplements. Originally, the coroner ruled the cause of death was simple heart failure, but upon being alerted to other facts during the course of the Agu family’s wrongful death suit against UC (which would settle for $4.75 million), the county made a rare amendment to the finding by adding the sickle cell information.
Now the Bay Area news media, led by the San Francisco Chronicle (which, in association with UC graduate student journalists, flubbed its first swing at coverage of the Agu case, but now is taking a second look, spurred by Concussion Inc.’s ongoing investigation), are finally focusing on the ways of Damon Harrington. In truth, Harrington isn’t much of an outlier in the sadistic plantation world of college football, where everyone but the performers on the field gets compensated. But that’s another story. Today, the flagship public university of the nation’s most populous state owns the Harrington story; and his continued protection, even in the face of compelling evidence of negligent homicide, heaps unprecedented shame on everyone from Chancellor Nicholas Dirks on down.
A key to the whole deal is Mahalic’s statement — whatever happened to it and what it says.
We know what happened to it: UC-Berkeley buried it. And since no news outlet with more juice than this reporter’s is pressing the Alameda County district attorney, Nancy O’Malley, as to why she won’t ask for it, the police report remains, for now, buried.
The Chronicle reported yesterday that it had acquired the Mahalic police statement, but won’t publish it. Why not?
As for what the statement says, here’s the relevant passage from the Chronicle story:
[A] transcript of his March 2014 interview with police, obtained by The Chronicle, he said Harrington emphasized toughness over strength and punishment over fairness.
“As soon as Harrington got to Cal, it was all about, ‘this area is so soft.’ He would say that we’re at a disadvantage being in Berkeley because of the kind of people that are around us,” Mahalic told detectives.
He said Harrington required “toughness workouts” for some players on Friday mornings that turned into “torture workouts” at least twice after some arrived late or missed practice.
“Making people puke, making people scream,” Mahalic said. “One kid came, you know, two minutes late to that workout and Damon would be singling him out. He’d be like, these are for (that kid). Thank (that kid) for these. And people are, you know, screaming at (that kid). Just calling him out, saying all this stuff to him. … It was pretty serious.”
On the day he was attacked, Hale, then 18, missed the morning workout. “That was by far the worst one,” Mahalic told police. He said Harrington ordered the players present to roll over and over for 100 yards, then do 50 “up-downs” — running in place, dropping to the ground and jumping back up — then roll 100 yards again. It was a workout, he said, where “you’re going to get unbelievably dizzy and sick. … It was just to punish us.”
Afterward, Harrington told players he would not punish Hale, Mahalic said. Instead, he told them: “This is your problem. You need to fix this. By any means necessary,” and slammed his fist into his palm, Mahalic said.
On April 23, Concussion Inc. reported on Mahalic’s February 26, 2015, deposition in the Agu civil lawsuit. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=10996. This deposition transcript is among the thousands of pages of secret documents, the Ted Agu Papers, that we will be publishing shortly, in their entirety, as an ebook to benefit sickle cell research and education. The testimony of Mahalic and other players starkly contradicts that of Cal coaches, trainers, and doctors, on key facts and public representations. Beyond that, it is sickening.
But in the investigation of criminal culpability of Harrington and other university officials, there is no substitute for the full text and facsimile of Mahalic’s police statement. Yesterday Cal’s media spokesperson, Dan Mogulof, told me definitively that my request for the document, under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), was denied, on grounds that records related to police investigations are exempted.
I doubt that the university’s position here would withstand a state court challenge, which I am considering. Though Mogulof is correct that a CPRA exemption exists for police records, the police investigation either is inactive or — if you go with the district attorney’s explanation of her resolution of the Hinnant-Hale incident — involves already “deferred” charges against Hinnant that will become moot with the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations in November 2016.
“It’s over and done with,” Lieutenant Marc DeCoulode wrapped up for me three months ago.
The lieutenant was wrong. The story of the crime against Ted Agu’s life, and the disgraceful and criminal cover-up of it by campus cops, athletic department flunkies, and top administrators, is just beginning.