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Teen testifies against former Compton Dominguez High basketball coach

October 5, 2009 |  8:23 pm

The teenage athlete whose allegations triggered the firing of decorated Compton Dominguez High School boys basketball coach Russell Otis took the stand before a jury Monday and testified that Otis, the architect of five state championships, tried to persuade him to engage in a sexual “experiment” last year.

The boy, now 17, testified that late on the night of Aug. 30, 2008, the coach drove to the player’s home,  met him at the rear alley and showed him a stack of money the coach claimed was $1,500.

Otis "said I can have all this if I do the experiment with him,” the boy testified. The coach “said he’ll bet me he’ll get me [aroused] within 30 seconds to a minute, and [that] I can have all the money.”

The boy, who The Times has not identified because he is a minor and an alleged victim of a sex crime, testified that he declined the coach’s offer but accepted a $100 bill to pay for cellphone minutes.

Otis is standing trial in Compton on felony charges of making an unwanted sexual advance on a minor, and of using an allegedly forged document to help him deposit a $15,000 check from Nike Inc. to the Compton Unified School District into his personal bank account. He was fired as Dominguez’s coach and athletic director, but has appealed.

Leonard Levine, Otis’ attorney, asked the boy if his allegations emerged because he sought more playing time at a different Southland school: “It was only after learning you needed [a California Interscholastic Federation hardship waiver] that you went to the sheriff, right?”

Law enforcement authorities received a formal complaint more than three weeks after the alleged incident. Levine also told Judge Pat Connolly he intends to introduce witnesses who will address possible personal problems the student, then a junior, was dealing with around that time, and could help explain why the coach and player exchanged more than 300 text messages in the days leading up to the meeting.

The boy testified that all of the texts he and Otis exchanged the day of the incident were wiped from his cellphone memory because the phone was damaged.

A classmate testified that he saw some of Otis’ texts to the alleged victim that night.  One said that “If Coach Otis touches [the boy], he’d give him a lot of money,” and “that he could do things to him in a matter of minutes.”

The player testified that he told his grandmother about Otis’ visit a few days after it happened, when Otis rebuffed a happy birthday text the boy had sent to the coach. The boy testified that Otis, now 47, urged him not to tell anyone else about the alleged encounter by promising money and shoes and then asked him to change his story.

“He told me to tell Granny it was a lie and that he’d sign papers for me to transfer schools,” the boy testified.

Levine introduced texts from later that month in which the boy told Otis that rumors spreading about inappropriate contact between the pair were “not true.” The boy attended a California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section championship ring ceremony in September 2008 with Otis present.

“I told him that so [Otis] would quit texting me,” the boy testified.

The trial will resume Tuesday and is expected to continue through next week.  It is unclear if Otis will take the stand.

-- Lance Pugmire