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Foster Guilty of Pot Charge

UCLA: Running back paid $250 fine for possession misdemeanor during summer. Toledo didn't punish him more.

October 11, 2000|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Convicted 10 weeks ago on a misdemeanor marijuana charge, star UCLA running back DeShaun Foster has remained free of suspension because Coach Bob Toledo said he believed the incident was isolated.

Details of the incident, coming to light recently, include Foster's pleading guilty Aug. 2 to one count of possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. According to Ventura County court records, Foster paid a $250 fine.

"I strongly believe what he is telling me," Toledo said Tuesday. "It is an isolated incident. He was guilty of having it. He wasn't guilty of using it."

Foster said, and sources confirmed, that he never has tested positive for drugs at UCLA, which randomly tests all athletes. Toledo said student-privacy regulations forbid him from discussing individual test results.

The fine is standard punishment for first-time offenders, said Greg Phillips, misdemeanor unit supervisor for Ventura County. State law allows for the possibility that Foster could eventually get the conviction removed from his record, Phillips said.

Word of the incident surfaced Aug. 25, in a call to Lee Hamilton's sports-talk show on XTRA (690). The caller wondered why the media had not reported Foster's arrest. At the time, Foster dismissed the account as "absolutely untrue" and a "misunderstanding."

Toledo said he summoned Foster to a meeting the next day. Foster told him he had not been taken into custody but had been cited and released.

"I tried to pay for it and just get it over with, instead of telling everybody," Foster said. "I wanted to put it in my past."

Senior Deputy Takeo Kingi of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said he and his partner, patrolling a hotel parking lot during a dance in Thousand Oaks on July 7, noticed a parked car with its lights on. The deputies discovered Foster inside, with marijuana in plain view, Kingi said.

Foster said he has never smoked marijuana and was a victim of circumstance. When door monitors at the dance told him he would not be allowed inside wearing a hat, Foster said, he told his friends he would take the hat to the car. One of his friends asked Foster to bring back a container, he said, which turned out to hold marijuana.

Said Foster, "You learn from your mistakes. I know I did something wrong. I'm taking responsibility for this. I paid the fine, and that was substantial. I'll never put myself in that situation again."

Felony convictions result in automatic dismissal from the team, Toledo said, but misdemeanors are handled case by case. Toledo acknowledged that many off-campus misdemeanors never come to his attention.

Foster, a junior and the Bruins' leading rusher, broke his right hand in UCLA's 38-31 victory over Arizona State on Sept. 30. He is expected to be out another two to five weeks.

Despite a chronic ankle sprain, he was the Bruins' second-leading rusher last season with 375 yards and led the team in touchdowns with six. In 1998, he gained 673 yards, most ever by a Bruin freshman.

Foster rushed for 3,398 yards and scored 59 touchdowns for Tustin High in 1997, earning the Glenn Davis Award, presented annually by The Times to the top prep player in Southern California.

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