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School Defends Keeping Coaches After Pot Conviction

Football coaches at Santa Margarita and St. Margaret's pleaded guilty in September to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge in exchange for having two felony possession charges dropped.

Two football coaches from Santa Margarita Catholic High – and another from St. Margaret's Episcopal – coached most of the recently completed season after pleading guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession, a move that enabled them to avoid going to trial on felony charges.

Although the story wasn't publicized until after the season, Santa Margarita officials knew about the case and, in a recent letter to parents, defended letting the varsity assistant coaches stay on the job, on grounds that the men didn't seem to be involved in using or selling marijuana.

Sean Patrick Coen and Robert Raymond Hendricks helped coach Santa Margarita during its run to the Southern Section Pac-5 and Division I State Bowl championships.

Charles Christopher Spann was an assistant football coach at St. Margaret's, which reached the second round of the East Valley playoffs. He is still listed on the coaching roster at the school's website.

According to Orange County District Attorney spokeswoman Farrah Emami, the men lived in a San Juan Capistrano residence that had a marijuana cultivation system in the garage with three mature marijuana plants, 229 immature plants and 32 marijuana clones—plus a lighting and watering system, a notebook that served as a "pay-owe" ledger listing medical marijuana dispensaries, and five 1-gallon bags of dried marijuana weighing slightly more than 1 pound. 

The story was originally reported Dec. 22 by the Orange County Register, which had also followed Santa Margarita's football team through a weekly Internet video feature called Hard Knocks on the newspaper's OCVarsity prep sports website. Coen, who coached receivers and defensive backs, was featured prominently on the show during its 17-week run, including the final episode about the team's 42-37 victory on Dec. 16 over San Jose Bellarmine. That video posted earlier on the same day the Register reported the marijuana story.

Hendricks, a walk-on coach, worked with receivers for the Eagles.

Spann, also known as Chachi, played at Canyon Country's Canyon High School for current Santa Margarita head coach Harry Welch when he coached there. He was hired in 2010 as an offensive and defensive line coach at St. Margaret's.

Welch left Canyon after the 2006 season and became coach at St. Margaret's, where he remained through the 2009 season.

According to Superior Court records, Coen, Hendricks and Spann were arrested Dec. 14, 2010, and each charged with one felony count of cultivation of marijuana, and one felony count of possession for sale of marijuana. On Sept. 15, 2011—the day the Eagles turned in a rather lackluster performance against Trabuco Hills in Game 3—they each pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana in excess of 28.5 grams, and one infraction for possession of marijuana less than 28.5 grams.

They were sentenced to 90 days in jail with the option of instead serving in a community work program (which they chose), making a $500 donation to the Victim Wellness Emergency Fund, and 18 months probation. After completing the sentence, they can apply to have the misdemeanor removed from their record, although the infraction will remain.

Welch on Wednesday told Patch he had been instructed to direct all inquiries to the Diocese of Orange, which did not return a phone call. Welch previously told the Register, "They are assistant coaches in good standing with the school, with me and with the diocese."

Principal Ray Dunne said previously that the two Santa Margarita coaches were disciplined when the school became aware of the conviction, but he declined to elaborate because it was a personnel issue.

The school has since sent a letter to parents from Dunne and Santa Margarita President Paul Carey about the incident:

Dear Parents:

At Santa Margarita Catholic High, teaching our students to live a healthy lifestyle is part of our expected schoolwide learning results (ESLRs). We were disappointed to learn of circumstances involving two of our assistant varsity football coaches who were convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession charges. The court findings confirm these men were not involved in growing or selling marijuana. There is a related story in this morning’s edition of The Orange County Register and online  at OC Varsity.

For the record, Mr. Sean Coen is a full time employee as well as coach at the school and Mr. Robert Hendricks is a walk-on coach.

The matter of Mr. Coen was brought to the attention of the Diocese of Orange earlier this school year. The Diocesan Director of Human Resources contacted the school and asked us to have Coach Coen immediately report to the Diocese. Coach Coen was placed on unpaid administrative leave from his position as Assistant Coordinator of Strength & Conditioning as well as from his duties as an assistant football coach, pending a review of the situation by the Diocesan Human Resources Department with reporting to the Superintendent of Schools. Mr.Coen immediately reported to  the Diocese and remained on administrative leave while the situation was reviewed.

Based on factual information gathered in the review, Mr. Coen was permitted to remain a full time employee provided he completed his required service but with the expressed understanding that any further such incidences would result in immediate dismissal.

We have spoken with a number of people familiar with the football staff and did not discern any evidence of either man being involved with use or sale of marijuana.

We assure you the safety of your sons and daughters is of paramount importance to us. Had there been evidence of direct involvement by these assistant coaches in growing and/or sale of marijuana they would not have remained in any capacity at  SMCHS.

We remain confident that these two men have learned from this experience and we hope it will help them in making wise choices in the future. This situation remains under review. You can be assured that further appropriate action will be taken by the school as necessary.

Sincerely,

Raymond R. Dunne, Principal
Paul M. Carey, President

LBV Collins January 16, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Hi Soccerdude. Based on your articulate writing style, you strike me as an intelligent person. So I wish to expand upon my position regarding marijuana to help you better understand where I’m coming from. First, a few points: 1. I’m not a former hippie. Though I was a child *in* the ‘60s, I was not a child *of* the ‘60’s. (I didn’t turn into a teen until the ‘70s.) 2. I have a deep respect for law enforcement. My long-time best friend is an active duty officer. And we have spoken about marijuana users and its impacts on them and on society. 3. I don’t smoke pot. I don’t know anyone who does. (At least not that they’ll admit.) 4. I really (REALLY) don’t want kids smoking pot or drinking alcohol or using Ecstasy… or experimenting with any other mind-altering substances. (Hell, I don’t want kids having sex, either. I’m a father of three daughters, all now in the twenties, and they can attest to my convictions.)
LBV Collins January 16, 2012 at 08:43 PM
But if I don’t want kids or adults using drugs, then why do I oppose our current marijuana laws? Because of the cost to taxpayers like you and me. Each year, our government spends over $40 billion fighting Nixon’s Drug War.[1] (That’s *every* year.) Our Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, said it isn’t working. [2] So if it isn’t working, then why do we keep spending the money? Shouldn’t we at least consider some other approach that *might* work? Therein lies my motivation: To stop spending money on a failed policy and to find new approaches to achieve the goal of a drug-free society that may work. Just where do I begin my search for a method that may work? Well, I started by looking at how our laws against marijuana started. I discovered some interesting facts. 1. It was perfectly legal to possess and use pot up to the point that the Controlled Substances Act was enacted. “Hippies” smoking pot were law-abiding taxpaying citizens before that. But the day that Nixon signed the CSA into law, they instantly were guilty of felonies that carried harsh prison terms… including life imprisonment. 1. http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/DrugProhibitionWP.pdf 2. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/05/13/ap-impact-years-trillion-war-drugs-failed-meet-goals/
LBV Collins January 16, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Of course, if using marijuana could destroy our society, then making its use and possession a felony made sense. But there’s the crux of the issue: Could marijuana destroy our society? To answer that question, Nixon created a blue-ribbon panel to investigate the impact that marijuana was having on society. Nixon fully expected the panel to confirm his beliefs of the great harm marijuana caused. But it didn’t turn out as Nixon expected, which brings me to my next point: 2. Nixon’s blue ribbon panel concluded that recreational marijuana use should not be criminalized. [3] Nixon wasn’t happy about that conclusion and ignored his own blue ribbon panel’s suggestion. Not only did he add marijuana to the list of controlled substances, but he listed it as a Schedule I narcotic; a list that only contains the most dangerous drugs (such as heroin). 3. http://youtu.be/C_55Mb_Qgxw (Fast forward to the 6:40 mark.)
LBV Collins January 16, 2012 at 08:44 PM
And here’s the irony: Government is now slowly changing our anti-marijuana laws making possession less serious—even legal. Many states have enacted new laws decriminalizing marijuana. At last count, 16 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. And in California, though it’s still illegal to possess marijuana without a Medical Marijuana Card, if you are caught with less than an ounce, it’s an infraction… no more serious than a minor traffic violation such as jaywalking. (BTW: A jaywalking ticket will cost you $191, while a marijuana ticket will only cost you $100. So it can be argued that recreational marijuana use is now considered less serious than jaywalking.) Forty years after Nixon ignored his blue ribbon panel’s recommendation, it seems government is finally realizing that the blue ribbon panel got it right and Nixon got it wrong.
LBV Collins January 16, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Isn’t it curious, these changing marijuana laws? What happened to marijuana during the past 40 years? From the time before the CSA when it was legal to posses and use marijuana recreationally, to the time since then when harsh penalties initially became law, to the present day where state laws are legalizing pot? Why was it okay to use marijuana, then not okay, and now slowly becoming okay again? As best as I can tell, it has nothing to do with marijuana’s negative impact on society. It’s simply people’s perception. Sure, as you point out marijuana is much more potent today than it was in years past. But so what? To me that’s like telling a beer drinker that there’s this new, more potent alcoholic beverage called “whiskey” that’s 8 times more potent than beer. Again, so what? The takeaway from the information is that you only need 1 1/2 ounces of whiskey to feel its impact versus 12 ounces of beer. Nope… the only thing that has really changed is people’s perception. Marijuana isn’t having a negative impact on society. But our laws regarding marijuana are. And that’s why I support legalizing, regulating and taxing it. BTW: I’m curious about where you got your information that suggests marijuana is addicting and that it’s a gateway drug. If you would provide links that support those claims, I would sincerely appreciate it.

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