Cal Poly Football Star in a Hard Place

     SAN LUIS OBISPO (CN) – A Cal Poly football coach “ordered” his star running back to talk to police investigating an attempted armed robbery, without a lawyer, his attorneys say in a motion to suppress.
     Kristaan Ivory, 22, was one of five Cal Poly football players charged with attempting to rob a fraternity on Aug. 10, 2014. Also charged were Cameron Akins, 19, Cortland Fort, 21, Jake Brito, 20, and Dominique Love, 20.
     According to the San Luis Obispo Police Department, the men drove to the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house in a rented Kia that day around 2:30 a.m. Akins, brandishing a .38-caliber derringer, allegedly demanded money from a house resident. Police arrived as the man led Akins upstairs, and a struggle ensued. Police and frat members eventually subdued Akins, according to police reports.
     Police said they found wallets and cell phones belonging to Ivory, Akins and Brito in the Kia. Prosecutors said the players were looking for drugs or money.
     During the police investigation, Gear McMillan, a former chapter president at the fraternity, was charged with possession of marijuana for sale and possessing a controlled substance, prescription pills, for sale. He pleaded no-contest to possession of marijuana.
     Fort and Brito have pleaded no-contest to conspiracy. Cases are pending against the other three players.
     In a motion to suppress filed Wednesday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, Ivory’s attorneys, Aaron May and Grant Gelberg, say statements Ivory made to detectives were involuntary and should be suppressed because his coach forced him to choose between his future and his right to remain silent.
     Matt Lazier, a spokesman for Cal Poly, said the university could not comment on pending litigation. Deputy District Attorney Eric Dobroth, the prosecutor, was not available for comment.
     Ivory, a business finance major, was preparing to head into his final season with the Mustangs. After gaining more than 1,100 yards rushing the previous season, he was the team’s reigning MVP.
     According to the motion, this is what happened:
     On Aug. 10, hours after the alleged robbery attempt, Ivory and Brito arrived at Cal Poly’s practice facility for a mandatory team meeting. There, a position coach told them to report immediately to head coach Tim Walsh’s office.
     Walsh, who was talking to two detectives, ordered Ivory to “tell them what happened” and “to be truthful.”
     Ivory says he was taught from an early age that football players must obey the coach or suffer consequences.
     At Cal Poly, Ivory had an athletic scholarship, controlled by Walsh, which paid for housing, tuition and food. Without it, he could not afford to attend Cal Poly.
     “In addition, Mr. Ivory had aspirations of pursuing a career in football, and his time at Cal Poly was an important steppingstone for these future plans,” Ivory’s attorneys wrote. “Mr. Ivory understood that failure to follow Coach Walsh’s directions could endanger his spot on the team and that Coach Walsh could institute procedures for revoking his scholarship. In short, Coach Walsh controlled virtually all aspects of Mr. Ivory’s life, including his education, housing and future career.”
     Detectives contacted Walsh at least four times, the motion notes, to get players to speak to them. In all, he allegedly sent eight players to speak to police.
     As a result, he became a “state actor,” assisting law enforcement, according to Ivory’s attorneys.
     “Coach Walsh was not acting as a football coach when, at the behest of the police, he brought Mr. Ivory to his office and then ordered him to talk,” according to the motion to suppress. “Such conduct has nothing to do with drawing up a passing play or instructing his team on the fundamentals of blocking and tackling. Rather, Coach Walsh was using his position and his leverage over Mr. Ivory to assist law enforcement in the investigation of the case.”
     A hearing on the motion has been set for November.

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