A senior at San Dieguito High School pleaded guilty Monday to assault with a deadly weapon in an attack June 26 on a Leucadia family--making him the fifth current or former athlete from the school to admit involvement in North County beatings.
The 17-year-old football player and wrestler admitted hitting and kicking Tom Gabel in the driveway of his home as Gabel sought to stop a group of young party-goers from attacking his sons. Gabel was knocked unconscious and had two teeth chipped.
"When you kicked him, you kicked him pretty hard, didn't you," asked Juvenile Court Judge William C. Pate.
"Yeah, I guess so," the youth answered.
Maximum of 4 Years
The youth, a resident of La Costa, could face a maximum of four years in the California Youth Authority. Sentencing was set for Jan. 8.
A felony charge of witness intimidation will not be prosecuted but will be considered by the judge in setting his sentence, as will charges arising from an alleged attack April 27 on a Palomar College student in La Costa.
Pate ordered the defendant released from Juvenile Hall, where he has been held since being arrested Nov. 5 on charges of threatening a fellow student to change his testimony. Before the plea was entered, Pate rejected a request from the district attorney's office that the defendant be tried as an adult.
Pate said a decision on whether the youth--a brawny 5-foot-10, 195 pounds--will be allowed to join the wrestling team will be left to the school. Last year the youth went to the state high school wrestling finals.
No Decision on Team Status
Dave La Borde, San Dieguito's athletic director and vice principal, said later that no decision had yet been made on whether the defendant will be allowed back on the team, which has its first match Saturday in Carlsbad.
Unlike the beatings, the alleged witness intimidation occurred on campus; the witness has since transferred to another school.
Defense attorney Lloyd Charton said the youth's father, a bricklayer, has promised to keep him busy and out of trouble on weekends and vacations.
"A month in Juvenile Hall can teach a young man a lot about keeping his mouth shut and toeing the line more closely," Charton said.
In all, nine current or former athletes from San Dieguito were charged in the beatings. Five have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. One has been convicted in Vista Municipal Court and sentenced to 15 days in jail, one is awaiting trial, and two others had charges dropped.