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As the Stinson turns (big break for the defense edition)

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player-thumbIt’s a shame that Max Gilpin, the 15-year-old who died after a football practice last August in Louisville, Ky., is growing more and more of a footnote in the aftermath of his demise. But that’s how it goes when stuff like this happens.

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

A Bullitt County circuit judge this morning [Tuesday] issued a domestic violence order against Jeffery Dean Gilpin, the father of the Pleasure Ridge Park football player who died after he collapsed at a practice.

During a court hearing, Gilpin’s wife, Lois Louise Gilpin, alleged that her husband had been abusive in the past and had recently threatened harm if she did anything to “dishonor” her stepson, Max Gilpin, who died at a practice on Aug. 23.

Jeff Gilpin, represented by attorneys, denied the allegations.

Nevertheless, Judge Elise Spainhour told Jeff Gilpin to avoid all contact with his wife and to enter anger counseling, along with grief counseling. The pair plan to divorce, they said.

“I’m very sorry you lost your child,” Spainhour told Jeff Gilpin. “You need to try to salvage your life. You don’t want to live in a sea of anger.”

Gilpin already has one ex-wife: Max’s mother, who is joining him in filing a civil lawsuit against former coach David Jason Stinson, as well as other coaches and the Louisville school district. They filed on the basis of wrongful death, saying Stinson denied water to players and pushed them too hard on a day when the heat index reached 94 degrees.

But what really made Max Gilpin’s case stand out is that Stinson is facing an August court date after a grand jury indicted him on reckless homicide charges as a result of the player’s death.

Presumably, Jeff Gilpin’s home life shouldn’ t have anything to do with Stinson’s guilt or innocence. But for sure Stinson’s lawyers will be poring through his divorce filings (if they haven’t already) looking for anything they can use. Already, Jeff Gilpin did them a favor during his civil trial deposition by saying he wasn’t sure that Stinson denied anyone water — a key fact on which the civil and criminal cases turn.

Stinson’s attorneys are going to be especially aggressive not only because they have a client to defend, but also because they know (thanks to the contributions they’re receiving from coaches nationwide) that Stinson’s guilt or innocence is going to have a profound effect on coaches’ authority. Especially their authority to inflict physical punishment like “gassers,” the sprint drills Stinson was alleged to have his players run because of a perceived lack of hustle, a coaching technique as old as coaching itself. With that at stake, and with his father’s personal foibles coming into the spotlight, it’s unfortunate Max Gilpin himself is more and more of an afterthought and symbol than a boy who died tragically.

Count him in

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For the youth sports leagues who lost money trusting it to Terry Drayton’s Count Me In, a savior has emerged… Terry Drayton.

drayton

That’s right, bitches. I’m gonna own 2009 after all.

From John Cook (no relation to your humble blogger) at TechFlash, who has done a great job breaking news on the Count Me In saga:

Let’s call it a comeback. Count Me In founder Terry Drayton is leading a new effort to buy back the assets of the troubled online payment processing company.

The move comes a little more than three months after Bellevue-based Count Me In was forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy by some of its non-profit customers for losing roughly $5 million in registration fees.

Drayton has now emerged as the leader of an entity called Rainier Software that appears to be in the pole position to buy the assets. It’s the latest twist in a saga that has drawn considerable chatter on this blog. According to court documents, Rainier recently made a $200,000 “stalking horse bid” for Count Me In’s domain names, technology, contracts and other assets.

The owner whose incompetence and/or malfeasance (depending on what league you talk to) led his company to bankruptcy and screwed up the finances of organizations across the country gets to buy Count Me in back for a song? This can’t be legal, right?

Oh yeah, it is, though by the time you get through the ridiculousness of how this can happen, it’ll make sense that the trustee assigned to the Count Me In bankruptcy is named Ed Wood, because the process seems as strange as an Ed Wood movie.

Basically, what happened was. On March 20, about three months after Count Me In was forced into bankruptcy, a company called Rainier Software filed something called a financial statement, or UCC-1. It’s filed by a lender with the state’s secretary of state as a means to secure property owned by the debtor. So Rainier Software was saying it lent money to Count Me In, and that Count Me In put up property as collateral — thus bringing it to the head of the bankruptcy line as a secured creditor. Ed Wood was OK with this because he determined that the youth leagues who used Count Me In, and were still using it, would be out more money if the company shut down than if he allowed it to continue on.

Meanwhile, Ed Wood was determining that he couldn’t find a buyer for Count Me In. Ed Wood “determined that businesses of the type and sophistication of the debtor’s are dominated by a few businesses, including the debtor,” according to the latest bankruptcy court filing. “The Trustee has been in constant contact with most of these companies, but only one company, Rainier, negotiated a purchase and sale agreement.”

The operator of Rainier? None other than Terry Drayton.

So for $200,000, less the approximately $49,000 discount Rainier (Drayton) gets for its secured-debt level on Count Me In (Drayton), Rainier (Drayton) is first in line to buy the assets of Count Me In (Drayton). Rainier (Drayton) has 60 days to give the court a list of contracts from Count Me In (Drayton) plans to assume — meaning the possibility exists that leagues that are owed money by Count Me In (Drayton) not only might never see it again, but that they might be tossed overboard by the new owner, Rainier (Drayton).

Of course, a “stalking horse” deal such as this means that others can bid a higher price and take Count Me In (Drayton) out of the hands of Rainier (Drayton) — as long as Rainier (Drayton) gets a break-up fee of $65,000.

John Cook’s story notes that the Washington Secretary of State has gotten numerous complaints about Drayton. But all of this, while crazy, appears to be perfectly legal. Which means your league could soon be perfectly fucked. And that’s why Drayton is a serial entreprenuer who gets on magazine covers, and you are not.

As the Stinson turns, latest edition

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According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Jefferson County school district is investigating allegations of retaliation against Pleasure Ridge Park High football players who spoke to police after last August’s death of teammate Max Gilpin.

Gilpin was the 15-year-old who died a few days after collapsing in practice after Coach David Jason Stinson forced the team to run “gassers” in a heat index of 94 degrees after he was displeased with their effort. Stinson has pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide charges in a rare case of a coach being held criminally liable for an athlete’s death. His trial is scheduled to begin in August. Stinson, as well as the school district and other coaches, is being sued by Gilpin’s parents in a wrongful death case. Stinson is no longer Pleasure Ridge Park’s football coach.

From the C-J:

Superintendent Sheldon Berman said [April 24] that he has asked Joe Burks, assistant superintendent of high schools, to look into the allegations.

Berman said he has not received any complaints but was asked about the matter during a deposition last week in a lawsuit filed by Max’s parents, Michele Crockett and Jeff Gilpin.

“As soon as I got back (to the office), I instructed my staff to investigate,” he said.

If there is retaliation against students, Berman said it would be “completely inappropriate.”

“It should not even be a topic for discussion,” he said. “No student should be harassed in any way for what they told the police.”

The Courier-Journal has received several calls from PRP parents who said their children were being retaliated against because of the statements they gave police. They asked not to be named.

The story doesn’t mention exactly what kind of retaliation is being meted out, and exactly who is meting it out to exactly whom, by name at least.

There also are conflicting statements about whether fundraising for Stinson’s legal defense is happening on school grounds.

Several other parents who have contacted the newspaper said they are concerned that fundraising is being done during school hours to raise money for Stinson’s defense and that their children are being encouraged to wear T-shirts supporting Stinson.

Lauren Roberts, spokeswoman for the district, said yesterday that neither PRP nor the district has received any complaints from parents about fundraising.

[Principal David] Johnson “has advised me that there are no fundraising activities occurring on school property or during school hours,” Roberts said in an e-mail.

She said that earlier in the school year “there was a youth recreation league that sold T-shirts after school in support of the coach, but Mr. Johnson stopped that.”

As the Stinson turns (civil edition)

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I’m certainly no lawyer, and most of the access I have to issues involved in the David Jason Stinson case comes from articles in the Louisville Courier-Journal. But the more I study the case, the more I think Stinson isn’t going to jail, and the more I think Max Gilpin’s parents won’t collect a dime in their lawsuit against their late son’s high school football coach.

Quick review: Stinson was the football coach at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville, Ky., when one of his players, the 15-year-old Gilpin, collapsed during practice during a hot day in late August 2008. A few days later, Gilpin died of septic shock, a result of a body temperature that reached 107 degrees. Based on testimony that said Stinson denied water to players and was verbally abusive (saying he would run players until they quit), the Jefferson County prosecutor charged Stinson with reckless homicide, a Class D felony that carries up to a five-year prison sentence, while Gilpin’s divorced parents united to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Stinson (no longer PRP’s coach), as well as assistant coaches, the Louisville school district and other school personnel.

Stinson’s case has become a flashpoint among youth sports parents and coaches because he is either an example to be made of for coaches going too far, or his prosecution is an example of extreme overreaching and threatens to make every coaching decision an actionable offense. (Perhaps why coaching associations are contributors to a legal fund established for Stinson.)

Back to the latest update in the case.

The Courier-Journal today has a story discussing the deposition of Max’s father, Jeff Gilpin, who was at the last practice. Key to both the criminal and civil cases was that Stinson denied players water — which makes the senior Gilpin’s own statement questionable of help to his own case. From the C-J (the bolding for emphasis is mine):

Gilpin noted that when he arrived at the practice, the running drills had begun and another player was already sitting on the ground with a bag of ice on his neck.

But Gilpin acknowledged that he did not hear Max or any other PRP football player complain that they were being denied water during the practice, where the heat index reached 94. And he said the players were allowed to remove their helmets and shoulder pads as they continued running.

Some players were told to sit down, while the rest of the team continued to run, though Gilpin said he was not sure who instructed them to do so.

There were pieces of Gilpin’s deposition that portray Stinson and the coaches as, at best, unaware of the severity of the situation and ill-equipped to deal with what was going on. Again, from the C-J:

Gilpin said PRP athletic director Craig Webb drove up in a cart, and they loaded Max onto it, taking him to a sideline water station. They disconnected the water hose and ran water on Max, putting ice on his neck.

Gilpin said it was several minutes after Max collapsed when assistant coach Steve Deacon asked him if he wanted him to call 911.

“I replied ‘Well, hell yes!’ ” Gilpin said, according to a transcript of his answers.

At that time, Gilpin said he noticed Stinson standing about 10 yards away with the team. Gilpin said Stinson did not talk to him or offer any assistance.

Bill Hoback, an attorney for Stinson, said the coach had gathered with other players at a team meeting and didn’t know Max had gone down until several minutes after he was removed from the field.

By that point, several people were working on Max, and Stinson observed what was happening, Hoback said.

“You can’t read that as him not trying to help,” he said.

Gilpin acknowledged in court records that Stinson did not notice Max fall down.

By all accounts, Stinson and the other coaches did not distinguish themselves with their understanding of what do once Max Gilpin collapsed. (Hence, why Kentucky passed a law requiring high school coaches to get training for sports-related injuries and illnesses, including what to do in case of overheating. The state’s high school athletic association and medical association are quickly putting together an online course so the 12,000 affected coaches can get trained by August.)

But is it reckless homicide?

The problem, for both the state and defense, is how you make airtight that someone did or didn’t do something beyond on a reasonable doubt for a law that defines reckless homicide as “recklessness when [a person] causes the death of another person.” Stinson ordered running drills, Gilpin collapsed, and he died. That much we know. But if there’s evidence Stinson didn’t deny water, or that Gilpin’s Adderall prescription contributed to his overheating, is Stinson off the hook? Would a jury find the mere act of running sprints on a 94-degree-heat-index day a reckless act. Apparently the Jefferson County prosecutor (and a grand jury) think so, and prosecutors by reputation only try cases they think they can win. But there are truck-sized holes both sides can drive evidence through to sway a jury.

Meanwhile, in the civil case, which has a lesser standard of guilt (as we all know thanks to O.J. Simpson being innocent of criminal charges of murder yet being held civilly responsible for those deaths), still is no easy road for Gilpin’s parents. Presumably, if the Louisville schools thought the odds were against it and Stinson, it would be moving to settle the case. (It’s possible that’s happening and we don’t know it, yet, but the school publicly has not signaled any intention to back down.) Of course, the district could be fighting the case so a precedent isn’t set, and its coaches can run gassers at will.

And like the criminal case, defining “reckless” is going to be difficult for the plaintiffs. Yeah, Stinson might have been a jerk. But is it reckless to do what he did when thousands of coaches have done the same without incident? (Of course, that’s a possible repercussion of the lawsuit and criminal case — to stop coaches from pulling crap so there are no more Gilpin-like incidents.)

I’m going to guess that for both the criminal and civil cases, any jury selection is going to be knock-down, drag-out because the definition of “reckless” can be as wide or narrow as anyone wants it to be. Surely every juror is going to be asked about his or her youth sports experience, whether as a player, a parents, a relative or the guy who parks the ice cream truck by the field and blares the stupid music-box incessantly until the parents submit to the begging of their children just to make it all go away. Presumably anyone with any intensity of feelings about their experiences is off the jury, but you never know.

The vagueness inherent in the definition of “reckless” is going to make the jury pool selection key to winning for either side. Trial lawyer Steve Frederick’s Kentucky Injury Law Blog has a list of a trial consultant’s top five truths about jurors that, to me, seems especially applicable in Stinson’s cases, even though technically these truths are about civil cases:

1. Don’t ask jurors to give your client the “benefit of the doubt” unless you want them to doubt your client.

2. Arguing that the law “only” requires proof “by a preponderance of the evidence” is like telling the jury that the plaintiff doesn’t have a lot of solid evidence.

3. People use their life experiences to fill-in-the-blanks in your case.

4. People don’t enter the courtroom looking for an opportunity to give away money.

5. It’s not what the law allows BUT WHAT JUSTICE REQUIRES that compels jurors to act on behalf of the plaintiff.

Belated update on Logan Young

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Logan Young was the 14-year-old girl whose parents sued to overturn an Indiana High School Athletic Association rule that prevented her from trying out for the boys’ baseball team because there was a girls’ equivalent sport, softball. However, the IHSAA ruled 18-9 a few months back to let her try out because it figured it would lose the lawsuit.

And the happy ending to the story is…

Well, it’s not all that happy. Logan Young didn’t make the Bloomington High School South team.

You could play conspiracy theorist and say Young was doomed because of the trouble she caused. But she, like a lot of freshman boys, just couldn’t make the cut. The coach said her attitude was great, but her skill level just wasn’t high enough. Her parents’ attitude was great, as well. Logan’s mother told an Indianapolis TV station before the tryout that she knew her daughter “was going to get a fair shake.” Logan, who played Little League Baseball from age 5 onward, said before the tryout that if she didn’ t make the team this year, she’d try next year.

If nothing else, Logan struck a blow for girls by allowing them the chance to try out. It seems backward we’re having this discussion. I had girls on my Little League team in the early 1980s; of course, there was no softball alternative for them. My 9-year-old daughter plays softball and loves it, and that’s great. But baseball and softball are different games, even if both involve a ball, a pitcher and a field.

People worried that somehow Logan’s tryout is some sort of reverse sexism, that boys will start trying out for girls basketball, are off the mark. The issue is the opportunity to compete. Presumably, if Bloomington South had a girls’ field hockey team, but there was a boy who wanted to try out because there was no boys’ team, then he more than likely could.

Among the dimbulbs is Bloomington South’s athletic director, J.R. Holmes, quoted by WTHR-TV in Indianapolis as saying of Logan’s case: “I’m thinking it could open a can of worms, where you might end up not having girls’ sports.” I’m sure Holmes, fresh off of winning his first state basketball title in 39 years of coaching, is wringing his hands over girls’ sports. Given his job as boys’ basketball coach, Holmes might have to be reminded from time to time that other sports and another gender is under his purview.

Written by rkcookjr

March 31, 2009 at 11:45 am

Posted in So sue me

Turning down the heat in Kentucky — more Gilpin death aftermath

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As reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Kentucky Medical Association’s committee on sports medicine met Thursday to discuss what coaches should do in case of a heat-related illness suffered by a player. The meeting happened the same week Kentucky Gov. Steve Brashear signed a bill requiring high school coaches to take a 10-hour course taught by a doctor or another qualified professional on health safety issues, such as recognizing emergencies, first aid, and signs of heat- and cold-related conditions. Not every coach technically has to take and complete the class, but every high school athletic practice and game must be attended by at least one person who has.

This is the outgrowth of the death last August of 15-year-old Max Gilpin of Louisville after he collapsed during a hot Pleasure Ridge Park High School football practice. Former coach David Jason Stinson has pleaded not guilty to a charge of reckless homicide and is among the many being sued by Gilpin’s parents over his death. The criminal trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 31, with some coaches and coaching associations giving money to Stinson’s legal defense in fear of what a conviction would mean for their jobs.

The Kentucky bill originally proposed that ice baths and defibrillators be available at every practice, but that was dropped because of schools’ concerns on costs and physicians’ concerns that those devices aren’t always the best course of immediate treatment.

As the Stinson turns (again)

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Appropriately enough, the reckless homicide trial of former Louisville high school football coach David Jason Stinson is scheduled for Aug. 31, or around the time he would have been kicking off his season had he remained in charge at Pleasure Ridge Park High.

Of course, he’s not because of the death of 15-year-old Max Gilpin, who died of septic shock (a result of overheating) a few days after a practice in which Stinson is alleged to have denied players water on a scorching hot day. Stinson has pleaded not guilty, and he’s got a whole lot of people in his corner, including coaches afraid that if he gets convicted, that’s the last time any coach attempts to instill discipline, like having players run gassers for farting around in practice. Of course, Stinson’s detractors say if he is convicted, that will be the last time any coach attempts to play sadist, like having players run gassers for farting around in practice.

Does TruTV (formerly CourtTV) still do live trial coverage? If so, it should high-tail it to Louisville for this one, expected to last two weeks.

If you can’t make it to Louisville yourself for the proceedings, you can always participate from afar. For instance, contributing to an independent effort to raise money for Stinson’s legal bills. Among the people and organizations backing “Save Our Stinson” are the Greater Louisville Football Coaches Association (one of the site’s founders), the Kentucky Football Coaches Association, the Kentucky High School Coaches Association, the Indiana Football Coaches Association and the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association. If you didn’t believe coaches saw this trial as a threat to their authority and livelihood, this should provide you all the evidence you need. From the chair of the legal defense fund:

I respectfully request that you donate if you can afford to. If you are a coach of any sport from the youth leagues on up, you should pay attention to what is going on. This trial, regardless of its conclusion, will affect the way young athletes are coached and trained all across the United States.

Pleasure Ridge Park set up a scholarship fund in Max Gilpin’s name, while another fund was set up to help his family handle funeral costs. As of yet, I have not seen a legal fund devoted to helping his family in the civil suit it filed against Stinson and others. This is the sort of nondevelopment that gets people to thinking that schools and coaches care more about ass-covering and protecting their authority than protecting the health and welfare of their students. I’m not saying it. But I could.

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