Coach charged with providing alcohol | SierraSun.com

Coach charged with providing alcohol

Nik Dirga, Sierra Sun

The coach of the state champion Tahoe-Truckee Wolverine girls’ soccer team, an assistant coach and a soccer player’s parent were charged Tuesday in Nevada County Superior Court with allegedly contributing to the delinquency of minors and with furnishing alcohol to approximately 40 minors at a party in November.

Varsity soccer coach Michael Holman, 46, assistant coach Eric Paul Jitloff, 21, and parent Mark Ross, 43, were all charged by Nevada County District Attorney Michael W. Ferguson with the misdemeanor counts.

The two counts carry a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail and $30,000 in fines, said assistant district attorney Fred Holmes, although a lesser penalty is more likely.

The charges stem from a party in Glenshire in mid-November, held to celebrate both the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams winning the Nevada 3A State Championship.

According to the results of an investigation by the Truckee Police Department, Coach Holman gave assistant coach Jitloff $30 to buy beer for a celebratory party with the knowledge it would be consumed by minors.

The party, believed to have been held Nov. 11, 2001, was at the home of Mark Ross in Glenshire.

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According to Tahoe-Truckee High School Principal Mike Finney, Holman has already stepped aside as girls’ soccer coach for one year, until the matter is resolved.

“He resigned as coach,” Finney said. “You could call it a self-imposed suspension. That’s the step he has taken.”

“I would call it a self-imposed year’s suspension,” said Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District Superintendent Pat Gemma. “Right now he’s no longer the coach, and he’s not going to be the coach next fall.”

Tahoe-Truckee High School Athletic Director Bob Shaffer said Wednesday that the future of Holman’s coaching career was undecided.

“There hasn’t been anything done on our end yet,” Shaffer said. “We’ll have to sit down with the administration and see what to do.”

On Tuesday, when contacted by the Sierra Sun, Ross said he had no knowledge of the charges brought against him and declined comment. Holman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

A spokeswoman at the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association in Reno was unable to say Wednesday if the high school soccer teams may suffer some form of sanction as a result of the charges. NIAA Executive Director Jerry Hughes was unavailable for comment.

No minors have been charged over the incident, said Truckee Police officials.

At least one parent of a soccer team member said she felt the charges are extreme.

“I’m enraged, and I think it’s sad,” said Chris Spencer, whose daughter was on the girls’ soccer team. “I do not agree with underage drinking, I don’t agree with adults contributing alcohol to minors, but my concern are the Gestapo tactics used by our law enforcement and the deceit they chose in conducting this investigation.”

A concerned parent contacted the police in December and triggered an investigation of the party.

“I was fully aware that a party was going to go on,” Spencer said. “I knew there would be alcohol there, and my daughter went and chose not to drink.”

Gemma said that the district stands by its zero-tolerance policy toward teen drinking.

“Drinking and alcohol is a problem in many communities just as it is in this one,” Gemma said. “I believe that it’s time we deal with it and I believe that Mike Holman is an individual that’s given us an opportunity to talk about this.”

Suzanne Prouty, parent of a soccer team player and a former member of the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District board, said that the party was planned to protect the students. Her son also attended, and did not drink, she said.

“This definitely shouldn’t have happened, but these people were trying to protect kids, and they were doing it the only way they understood,” she said.

But TPD Cmdr. Scott Berry said that his department is obligated to uphold the law.

“We can’t just ignore this conduct,” Berry said.

Both Prouty and Spencer, however, cited another party held for players of the football team and their parents, who also won the state championship last fall. Alcohol was allegedly served to minors at that party, also.

“At the same time there was a football party (with alcohol),” Prouty said. “Now you have the community saying nobody filed charges there, so where’s the consistency?”

Superintendent Gemma defended Holman’s conduct, saying that while he made a mistake that his coaching career has been commendable.

“He is an honorable man,” Gemma said. “He’s a guy that I want involved with our kids. He clearly made a mistake and he knows it.”

Gemma said he would support Holman’s re-hiring to coach soccer in the fall 2003 season if he is acquitted of the charges against him.

“I would support the high school hiring him back,” he said.

According to a signed declaration by Truckee Police Department officer Roy Richner, the TPD spent nearly a month investigating the claims and found more than sufficient evidence for the district attorney’s office to charge the three men.

In the seven-page statement, Richner described the events leading up to the charges. Richner signed the statement declaring that under penalty of perjury the events described in the narrative were true as to his own knowledge.

“On December 13, 2001, I was told there had been a party for the Truckee High School soccer teams after the boys’ and girls’ teams won the state championship,” Richner wrote in the statement. “At the party, there was Budweiser beer as well as hard liquor consumed by numerous minors.”

Some money for beer was allegedly collected by students on the bus as they returned from the championship matches.

In the statement, Coach Holman is also quoted as saying that while on the bus, “I gave money to Eric (Jitloff) to buy alcohol and give it to Mark (Ross).”

Richner’s investigation found that Holman allegedly gave Jitloff the money to buy beer for the party, and that Holman was under the impression that since he was giving money to another adult, his conduct was not illegal.

Additional alcohol was also apparently brought to the party by others, but the TPD’s investigation could not determine the source of all the party’s alcohol, according to Berry.

Holman told Richner, according to the statement, that he was very proud of the soccer team and they deserved to celebrate. He also allegedly said that after winning the previous year’s championship, some team members had stolen alcohol from area stores and their parents, and that he didn’t want that to happen again this year.

“Everyone has learned a lesson,” Holman is quoted as saying in the report. “Students, parents, Ross, me.”

Prouty said that Holman has actively discouraged students from drinking in the past.

“He’s the one coach that I have seen consistently who says, ‘If I catch you drinking you’re off the team,'” she said.

In the report, Holman is quoting as telling investigating officers, “I got caught up in the moment of winning state.”

Mark Ross was first approached by Richner on Dec. 15, 2001 in a phone interview. Ross admitted hosting the party at his home in November with knowledge there was alcohol served, although he did not provide it, and that at one point he left the party unsupervised by adults.

“It was really stupid of me,” Ross is quoted by Richner as saying. “I have never done anything like this before and will never do it again.”

Ross was asked to leave the home by several of the students, according to the police statement. In the report, Ross also said that a student “offered me $100 to go to Reno for the night.”

Ross did leave the party unsupervised by adults, but instead of going to Reno he drove to the Glenshire store and bought a magazine, then parked his car at the end of his driveway and waited in the car until approximately 1:30 a.m. He said he was hoping to stop any students if they attempted to drive away while intoxicated.

When Ross returned, according to the statement, he said that “a lot of kids were wasted.”

“I knew what they were going to do but I left anyway,” he is quoted as telling the investigating officer.

According to Richner’s statement, Ross told him the party was “the stupidest thing I’ve done in my adult life” and that “the kids took advantage of me.”

Ross also said in the statement that he has not drank alcohol himself for more than 25 years.

Holmes said that the district attorney’s office has no official position on the case.

“The position of the district attorney’s office in this case is neutral,” Holmes said. “We’ve spent a great deal of time discussing the various options, but these are criminal offenses and the evidence is extremely strong.”

“There’s no compelling reason to treat these folks any different than E other people who violate laws relating to alcohol and minors,” Holmes added, citing recent cases where adults have been arrested in Truckee for providing alcohol for minors at convenience stores.

But both Prouty and Spencer said they believe the larger issue is how the fledgling Truckee Police Department, which has been in action for only six months, uses its authority.

“The issue I want to see brought to the forefront is our law enforcement,” Spencer said. “Is our town police department truly what we asked for in the way of community policing? I don’t want that to be lost or clouded by the controversy over alcohol, which will never be resolved.”

“This is not my idea of community policing,” said Prouty, who was one of three community members who sat on the selection committee that chose Dan Boon to be police chief. “Community policing has to involve an education component.”

“I think that this is another example of people coming in from an outside community and not making an attempt to understand this one,” she added. “All we are trying to say is you need to understand the community.”

Prouty did say that Chief Boon has been receptive to public comment.

“He has had an open door policy and I commend him for that,” she said. “I just think that they need to listen now.”

Holman, Ross and Jitloff have been told to appear in Nevada County Court on March 4 at 9 a.m. for a hearing, Holmes said.