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Calif. Jurors Acquit Hoops Coach

April 24, 2001

COMPTON, Calif. (AP) _ A prominent high school basketball coach was acquitted Monday of charges he molested a 17-year-old player from his team.

Russell Otis, 38, was charged with child molestation, sodomy and oral copulation of a person under the age of 18. He faced up to nine years and eight months in state prison.

The jury heard closing arguments Friday then returned the innocent verdict late Monday afternoon.

Otis, a former coach and health teacher at Dominguez High School in Compton, began coaching boys basketball at the school in 1987. He has produced a number of top national college recruits and won four state championships over the past five years.

The 17-year-old boy tearfully testified during the 2 1/2-week trial about being sexually abused.

Otis’ attorney, Leonard Levine, contended the story was fabricated. He said the boy’s family was after money and the boy wanted to play for another high school because he was going to lose his starting position on the team.

The Compton Unified School District fired Otis in February, not because of the sex charges, but because he taught health and physical education classes without a valid teaching credential.

Otis, who is married and has a teen-age son, attended Dominguez High. He returned to the Compton school as a teacher and coach after graduating from Southern Utah in 1986, taking over the varsity program at 23.

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