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Dominguez High's Russell Otis is charged

The basketball coach and athletic director, who is on administrative leave from both positions, is charged with two counts related to unwanted sexual advances on a male former student.

March 18, 2009|Lance Pugmire | Staff and Wire Reports

Russell Otis, the coach who built Compton Dominguez High into one of the state's top boys' basketball programs, has been charged by the Los Angeles County district attorney with two counts related to unwanted sexual advances on a male former student.

The charges "stem from text messages to a male under 18," district attorney's spokeswoman Jane Robison said.

Otis, 46, was arrested this month and released on $75,000 bail. He pleaded not guilty Friday to one felony count of meeting a minor for lewd purposes and one misdemeanor count of child molesting.

Leonard Levine, Otis' attorney who won the coach an acquittal when he was confronted with molestation charges by a former Dominguez player in 2001, said he didn't think prosecutors had any actual text messages to confirm the allegations.

"If they had text messages saying these things, that's a ponderous case," Levine said. "But Mr. Otis denies ever doing this."

Otis, who faces a maximum five-year prison sentence if convicted, is due back in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Compton on March 30 for a preliminary hearing. But by then he may be facing even more charges. Prosecutor Angela Brunson said Tuesday that she anticipated filing additional felony charges against the coach as soon as today, stemming from an investigation conducted by the Compton Unified School District police.

Otis, whose teams have won 10 Southern Section and six state championships, has been on administrative leave from his position as coach and athletic director at Dominguez since September, when the allegations surfaced. A school district spokeswoman said the district would not comment on a "personnel-related item."

Investigative documents in the case were filed under seal, but the charges against Otis allege that he "did unlawfully, and motivated by an unnatural and abnormal sexual interest in children, arrange a meeting with . . . a minor . . . to engage in lewd and lascivious behavior, and did go to the arranged meeting place at and about the arranged time."

-- Lance Pugmire



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