The crucial court affidavit and testimony that helped Dunbar’s basketball team back into the postseason — information sworn to by Dunbar’s coach — was not true, according to new video evidence.
Dunbar varsity coach Chuck Taylor filed an affidavit March 2 swearing that the player at the center of an eligibility dispute “was not involved in the (Jan. 10) altercation” that the Ohio High School Athletic Association said led to him being ineligible.
Then in a March 6 court hearing, Taylor, who is also a bailiff for Dayton Municipal Court, said he went above and beyond to make sure he had it right.
“I probably watched that video 50 times just to make sure — I value my integrity — just to make sure that kid was not on the floor,” Taylor said in his March 6 testimony.
But after new cell phone video was submitted, both OHSAA and Dayton Public Schools acknowledged last week that the player did, in fact, leave the bench and go into the fight.
“The player was seen in the videos in the fight,” DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said Thursday. “I’m not going to speculate on whether or not someone was not telling the truth.”
Taylor did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment for this story. Taylor had testified March 6 that he passed the player, referred to in court as “John Doe,” immediately outside the locker room, away from the court, near the start of the brawl.
Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Krumholtz called Taylor’s account “the unrefuted explanation” that was key to his decision.
Last week’s joint press release from DPS and OHSAA clearly mentions Taylor’s impact in the case, quoting directly from the judge’s ruling: “The court further found, ‘thus, as Coach Taylor testified, John Doe was already in the locker room hallway before the fight broke out.’ ”
Asked whether the new brawl video clearly showed Taylor and the key “John Doe” player on the court at the same time, OHSAA officials said they had not looked for that specific detail, and would need to watch the videos again to answer. Asked whether the player was only in the brawl for a few seconds, and could have quickly then gone into the hallway, OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried said it was longer than that.
OHSAA Executive Director Dan Ross viewed the new video and photo evidence with DPS staff.
“Dr. Ross … said that we don’t plan to pursue legal action against Chuck Taylor or other DPS personnel,” Stried said. “The court could pursue action, of course, especially since Chuck Taylor is employed by the court.”
DPS spokeswoman Marsha Bonhart said Friday that Lolli would not answer this news organization’s further questions about the case, saying, “she feels everything has been said.”
But questions remain about the “corrective measures” Lolli said DPS has already taken, as well as the personnel changes that she said will be effective for next school year. And there are questions about the fate of Taylor, after Lolli said it was “yet to be determined” whether he will return as coach.
Questions not asked
** Recognizing players: Taylor testified that he was only able to identify three jersey numbers of players in the video of the fight. He said he had numerous others watch the tape and asked them, “tell me what numbers you see,” with similar results. Early in his testimony Taylor said he was able to identify people while the brawl was actually happening.
“It’s a brawl or melee. I see parents, players, administrators and community, kids from the school, on the court fighting — everybody landing punches,” Taylor testified.
But he was never asked on the stand, by either attorney, which players he recognized by face or by physical build — either during the fight itself, or on the video later.
** What did the key player say: Neither DPS nor OHSAA would comment on whether they asked the player himself if he had gone onto the court for the fight. But testimony suggests OHSAA did not ask. In court, DPS attorney Brian Wildermuth pressed OHSAA staffer Ben Ferree twice on that issue, demanding to know why he had not asked the player if he left the bench. Ferree said it would have been a waste of time, suggesting he would not have gotten reliable information.
Despite having challenged OHSAA on the issue in court, DPS would not answer whether they themselves had asked the player about going into the fight — or whether he lied or told the truth if they did ask.
** Judge’s key wording: Krumholtz, in a crucial part of his ruling, wrote that “as Coach Taylor testified, John Doe was already in the locker room hallway before the fight broke out. As such, John Doe was not in violation of Rule 10-5-5 … (and) was an eligible player …”
But Taylor only testified that he knew the player’s whereabouts after the fight broke out, not before. Taylor said in court that he was inside the locker room drawing plays on the chalkboard when the fight started and only came into the hallway after he heard the commotion of the fight under way. On cross examination, OHSAA attorney Steven Craig asked him, “You say you passed (the player) in the hallway once the fight had started?” and Taylor answered, “Yes sir.”
Asked last week about the discrepancy on the timing, Krumholtz declined comment, saying through his bailiff that “a court can only speak about any case through its decisions.”
The Dayton Daily News has covered every step of this case, from OHSAA kicking Dunbar out of the tournament, to live courtroom coverage of a judge reinstating the team, details of who the school district disciplined, and now the fallout from new evidence showing DPS was wrong.