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Fallen Hero

For many, criminal case against Thompkins conflicts with man they know

September 12, 2003|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

Before his arrest last year, Glenn Thompkins was a big man on the Rialto Eisenhower High campus, a former star athlete who had returned to his alma mater as a teacher and championship-winning football coach. Many considered him an exemplary role model.

But when the Eagles open their season tonight against highly regarded Corona Centennial, Thompkins won't be on the sidelines, or even in the stands.

Faced with 14 counts related to charges that he had an unlawful sexual relationship with an underage female student, he has been banned by the school district from the Eisenhower campus and is prohibited from attending games.

Details of the case have not been made public because of the nature of the accusations and the age of the alleged victim.

What is clear is that while Thompkins, 27, awaits his day in court, there is confusion and angst among former players and supporters who find it difficult to associate the alleged crimes with a young man whose character had always seemed above reproach.

"To this day I will defend Glenn Thompkins, and I still think the world of him," said Tom Hoak, Eisenhower's athletic director and former football coach.

Ryan Russell, who played for Eisenhower when Thompkins was an assistant coach in 1998, flatly refuses to believe the allegations against his friend.

"I still talk to [Eisenhower] people, and I've never heard anything bad said about Glenn," said Russell, an aspiring Arena League receiver who employs Thompkins as a personal trainer. "The people that know him just love him."

Verna Carey views Thompkins' predicament from a different perspective. The lead attorney for the San Bernardino County statutory rape prosecution unit said charges were filed for a simple reason: There is enough evidence to prove Thompkins' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Others, though, have their doubts.

Hoak is bothered because the case has dragged on for close to a year without a trial date. "A lot of damage has been done without due process," he said.

Thompkins was arrested in November but charges were not filed until March while authorities investigated the claims and gathered evidence. A pre-preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in San Bernardino County Superior Court in Fontana, with a preliminary hearing set for Thursday. If found guilty on all counts, Thompkins could face up to 11 years and eight months in prison and be required to register as a sex offender, effectively ending what had looked like a promising career as an educator.

Court delays and the district attorney's offer of a settlement -- rejected by Thompkins and since withdrawn -- have fueled speculation that prosecutors lack a strong case.

"If he did something wrong and they can prove it, then obviously he needs to pay," Hoak said. "But if you don't have a case, if you don't have evidence, if you don't have anything, then all you've done is ruin this man's life."

Thompkins' fall from grace came just as he was making significant strides in his first season as head football coach.

Eisenhower had rebounded from an 0-5 start in nonleague play to sweep its Citrus Belt League opponents and defeat Anaheim Servite in the first round of the Southern Section Division I playoffs, extending its winning streak to six games.

Four days later, on Nov. 26, Thompkins was arrested on campus and booked into West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. Rialto police had opened the case that morning after a complaint by the parents of the alleged victim. Thompkins was released after posting $10,000 bail.

Having their coach suddenly removed had a devastating effect on Eisenhower's players, some of whom learned about Thompkins' arrest from newspaper reports.

"It was a disaster for us," said David Lord, a senior lineman. "We tried to put it behind us, but it was hard."

Said senior running back Anthony Manning: "It was shocking. I didn't believe it. I still don't believe it."

Hoak, the Eagles' coach for 19 years until resigning after the 2001 season, was thrust back into his old job for the team's quarterfinal playoff game. It came as no surprise when Long Beach Poly rolled to a 43-3 victory.

"I've coached for 30 years, so the coaching part was no problem," Hoak said. "[But] it was very awkward and very difficult for everybody."

Those feelings were rekindled four months later when charges were filed -- 10 counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, three counts of sexual penetration by foreign object and one count of dissuading a witness, the alleged victim, from reporting a crime.

The alleged crimes occurred between June 1, 2002, when the female student was 16, and Nov. 26, 2002. Thompkins was ordered to have no contact with the student, who turned 18 in July.

Thompkins, who has pleaded not guilty, declined to comment about his case. His lawyer, David Goldstein, did not respond to requests for an interview.

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