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Retrial won't be sought for ex-high school coach

Jurors had deadlocked on a felony charge of meeting a minor for lewd purposes in the trial of former Compton Dominguez High School basketball coach Russell Otis.

December 03, 2009|By Lance Pugmire

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced in court Wednesday that it will not seek a retrial of former Compton Dominguez High School boys' basketball coach Russell Otis on a felony charge of meeting a minor for a lewd purpose.

A Compton jury last month deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of convicting Otis on the charge, which would have left the ex-coach facing up to a three-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors alleged that Otis had met a former member of his 2008 CIF Southern Section-championship team at the player's home and offered the then-16-year-old boy $1,500 in cash if he'd let the coach sexually arouse him.

The two holdout jurors said there wasn't enough evidence presented to prove Otis actually visited the boy's home. "It's always a victory when prosecutors decide to drop the most serious charge," Otis' attorney, Leonard Levine, said after Wednesday's hearing.

The jury did convict Otis on a misdemeanor child-molesting charge for barraging the boy with text messages that continued into the early morning hours in August 2008. Otis was acquitted of felony grand theft and forgery after prosecutors alleged that he used a forged authorization letter to deposit into his personal bank account a $15,000 check from shoe company Nike Inc. that was written to the Compton Unified School District.

The misdemeanor conviction of Otis, 47, will force the ex-coach to register as a sex offender and will bar him from coaching and teaching minors, prosecutors said.

Ryan King, one of the deputy district attorneys who prosecuted Otis, said his office decided not to retry Otis because a felony conviction probably would not result in a more severe sentence.

"The lifetime [sex offender] registration will prevent him from being so close to so many young men again," King said. "Based on what came out in court, that is the most important thing we accomplished. We don't believe any school district will touch him. And we'll still be requesting substantial jail time."

Otis is due back in court Jan. 6 for sentencing, facing a maximum one-year sentence in county jail.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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