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Ex-Compton school official testifies in coach's trial

October 8, 2009 |  4:32 pm

The former acting principal of Compton’s Dominguez High School testified today that he had no recollection of signing an “authorization letter” giving the school’s basketball coach permission to deposit a $15,000 check earmarked for the team into the coach’s personal bank account.

But the ex-principal acknowledged that his memory has been diminished because of a stroke he suffered in December 2007.

“I don’t believe this to be my signature on this paper,” Garry Roberson testified when shown the authorization letter.

Russell Otis, 47, is on trial for allegedly making unwanted sexual advances on a former Dominguez player and using the letter to misappropriate funds given to the school’s basketball program by Nike.

Otis, who led the boy’s program to five state titles and 10 California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section championships during a 20-year career, has pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorney Leonard Levine contends that Roberson’s stroke has caused him to be unable recall conversations he had with Otis in which he approved of the coach depositing the funds into his personal account.

Under questioning by Levine, Roberson testified that he did recall Otis informing him that he needed money to pay for his team’s participation in a fall 2007 tournament. He also acknowledged that, as principal, he signed documents and letters written by others.

“A lot of things came across my desk,” he said.

When Levine pressed, asking Roberson, “Do you remember telling Coach Otis that the best way to get funds from Nike to him was to cash the check?” Roberson replied, “Never. I don’t remember that.”

—Lance Pugmire