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Trials, Tribulations Not in Game Plan

Jurisprudence: South Torrance's Peabody swept up in two court cases while guiding his team's playoff run.

November 22, 2000|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Brett Peabody, the football coach at South Torrance High, said if he had his wish, his name would never "be mentioned in a courtroom, period."

But Tuesday, Peabody found himself immersed in two unrelated but emotionally charged proceedings in Los Angeles Superior Southwest District Court in Torrance.

In a case that affects the 29-year-old Peabody directly, Judge Thomas P. Allen Jr. continued the arraignment of, and issued a restraining order against, two men who allegedly assaulted Peabody after a game last month because of a relative's lack of playing time.

John Blaz Martinez, 34, and his brother, Anthony Julio Martinez, 23, both of Lomita, were ordered to stay away from Peabody, his wife and a South Torrance assistant coach. They were also ordered to stay away from South Torrance sporting events and the school campus.

The Martinezes are due back in court Tuesday.

Peabody, however, was not present in the second-floor courtroom when the Martinezes appeared and the restraining order was issued.

Instead, he was upstairs, in a fourth-floor courtroom at the sentencing hearing of a former South Torrance player who had pleaded no contest to leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death.

Nicholas Schroeder, 18, was the driver of a car that hit a curb and spun out of control before crashing into a light pole Aug. 12 in Torrance. Travis Patrick Jackson, 19, a 1999 South Torrance graduate who was an assistant soccer coach at the school and played for Harbor College, was killed in the one-car crash. Two other passengers were injured.

Schroeder, an All-Southern Section Division X defensive back who graduated last June, walked away from the accident. He wandered the streets in a dazed state for about five hours until he was found by his father, who took him to a hospital and called police.

Peabody was one of several teachers, coaches, friends and relatives who wrote to the court on Schroeder's behalf. At Tuesday's hearing, Jackson's parents asked Judge Mark S. Arnold for leniency in sentencing Schroeder.

The judge cited Peabody's letter, among others, before sentencing Schroeder to five years' probation. If he violates the terms of his probation--which includes 45 days in jail, to be served consecutively or over 15 three-day weekends--he could face three years in state prison.

Peabody expressed relief when the proceedings ended. He said he and Schroeder, who had planned to be an assistant coach at South Torrance this season, have been mutually supportive.

"We've kind of been there to talk to and have shoulders to cry on," Peabody said.

Peabody is preparing his team for a Southern Section Division X quarterfinal playoff game Friday against Santa Ynez. He said the Spartans' playoff run "has been giving me a zest," but he is still experiencing physical and emotional trauma from the alleged assault.

"The emotional impact has been far worse," he said. "Any time a parent wants to talk to me, there is a hesitation. There is a fear."

The Martinezes were arrested and booked on suspicion of misdemeanor battery after the incident that occurred shortly after South Torrance's 24-21 Ocean League loss at North Torrance on Oct. 20. They were released that night.

John Martinez was reportedly angry that his son, running back and linebacker John Martinez Jr., had carried the ball only three times in the loss to North Torrance and allegedly confronted Peabody. According to police, after a short conversation, the elder Martinez, without provocation, hit Peabody from behind and knocked him to the ground, where he also was struck by Anthony Martinez.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office reviewed the case but referred it to the Torrance city prosecutor's office because it did not rise to the level of a felony. The district attorney cited the Martinezes' lack of criminal history and that Peabody's injuries had been minor.

John Martinez has been charged with one count each of misdemeanor battery, battery against a school employee and battery on school property. Anthony Martinez has been charged with two counts each of misdemeanor battery, battery against a school employee and battery on school property because he also allegedly struck South Torrance assistant coach Chad Nammack, who was coming to Peabody's aid.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in county jail. The maximum fine for battery is $1,000. The maximum fine for battery against a school employee and battery on school property is $2,000 for each count.

Peabody said he has had no contact with the Martinezes since the incident. South Torrance administrators have barred the two men from attending athletic events at the school, but Peabody said he saw John Martinez at a recent road game and that his wife has been harassed at games by other members or friends of the family.

In a story published by the Daily Breeze newspaper a few days after the alleged assault, John Martinez said he regretted his actions.

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