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Despite Safeguards, Little League Took On Molester as Coach

The man, who allegedly used an alias, is expected to accept a plea deal in a Riverside County courtroom today.

August 03, 2004|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Two years ago, Little League reacted to nationwide sexual assaults on its young athletes by implementing safeguards to protect its 2.7 million players from child molesters.

But Adolph Ganion found a way to coach.

The Riverside County man spent at least three seasons with Jurupa National Little League in Rubidoux, even though he was a registered serious sex offender. Ganion had been convicted of molesting eight boys in Los Angeles County in 1978 and 1987.

Ganion, a single, 53-year-old loner who lived in a trailer at the base of mountains in Glen Avon, allegedly avoided detection by telling Little League officials that his name was Al Humphrey, authorities said. The league never knew, despite its mandatory criminal background checks on all coaches and staff.

Ganion was arrested last fall after the Riverside County Sheriff's Department received a tip that he was using an alias and coaching baseball in a league of 5- to 12-year-olds. After questioning players in the league, Ganion was named in a 14-count criminal complaint, charged with molesting four boys.

"This man is the most predatory pedophile I've ever come across," said prosecutor Michael Hestrin.

Ganion is expected to appear today in Superior Court to accept a plea agreement that could lead to a 25-year prison sentence, Hestrin said.

Little League officials acknowledged that Ganion's case illustrates that the organization needs to be more vigilant when checking the backgrounds of its adult volunteers. "We can do a better job," Little League spokesman Chris Downs said.

Before the 2002 season, Little League instituted its Child Protection Program that called for chapter leagues to check the criminal history of all managers, coaches, board members, concession workers and ground crew members through a website database or by forwarding names to local law enforcement agencies. Sheriff's Department officials said there is no record that board members at Jurupa National ever submitted names to the agency for background checks while Ganion was a coach from at least 2001 to 2003.

Jurupa National Little League President Butch Guzman did not return phone calls.

Gabriel Soto, an assistant coach with Ganion in 2003 for the Jurupa National 9-10 Braves, said the league did not require him to provide personal identification last year. However, after Ganion's arrest, the league requested his driver's license information and instituted a policy that forbade children to accept rides home with any adult other than a parent.

Martha King, the parent of one player, said that when she became suspicious of Ganion and encouraged the local Little League to check his background, she was told that the board "didn't have the money to do it."

"He was a guy who popped out of nowhere driving a car with [Arizona] license plates -- he had no kids in the league, no wife, no girlfriend," King said. "We're in a poor area here, so some of the parents were fine with him taking their kids to go get something to eat, taking them to an Angels game, even on camping trips. Not me. I thought he was weird."

In October 2003, a woman told deputies at the Jurupa Valley station that she had known "Al Humphrey" for years and that she was troubled that he was "always around young children." At the sheriff's station, she reviewed the Megan's Law database of registered sex offenders.

The woman scrolled to a picture of Ganion and told deputies that he was calling himself Al Humphrey and coaching at Jurupa National Little League. Ganion was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully changing his name as a registered sex offender.

Downs, the Little League spokesman, said Ganion "went the extra mile" to get around the safeguards Little League established before the 2002 season.

"In a situation like that, we were limited by the technology," Downs said.

Dennis Gutierrez, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, said there was no financial impediment keeping Jurupa National Little League officials from conducting background checks because the department allows nonprofit organizations to run them for free.

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