Crime

Cal Poly football player's rights were violated in robbery investigation, attorney says

Kristaan Sterling Ivory, 20, of Los Angeles, one of five Cal Poly football players arrested in connection with an Aug. 10 attempted armed robbery at the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house, appears in court Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in San Luis Obispo.
Kristaan Sterling Ivory, 20, of Los Angeles, one of five Cal Poly football players arrested in connection with an Aug. 10 attempted armed robbery at the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house, appears in court Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in San Luis Obispo. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Actively assisting police in an attempted armed robbery case, Cal Poly head football coach Tim Walsh coerced his star running back to talk to detectives without an attorney, according to a court document filed by a defense attorney.

Kristaan Ivory, 22, was one of five football players arrested in connection with an attempted robbery at the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house in San Luis Obispo on Aug. 10, 2014. Ivory, a former most valuable player, has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of felony conspiracy.

In a motion filed with San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Wednesday, Los Angeles attorney Aaron May argues that Ivory’s statements to investigators were involuntary and should be inadmissible in court.

Because the issue is in litigation, Cal Poly would not comment on the matter, said spokesman Matt Lazier.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, the defendants arrived at the frat house seeking money or drugs. Also charged in the case were Cameron Akins, 19, Cortland Fort, 21, Jake Brito, 20, and Dominique Love, 20.

According to the prosecution, both Brito and Ivory left wallets and cell phones in the rental car used to commit the robbery attempt.

At the time, Ivory was a business finance major, preparing for his final year as the Mustangs’ running back. He had been named the team’s MVP the prior season after rushing for more than 1,100 yards.

“Mr. Ivory had aspirations of pursuing a career in football, and his time at Cal Poly was an important steppingstone for these future plans,” the motion states.

From an early age, the motion continues, Ivory was taught that players must obey their coach or suffer the consequences.

“Mr. Ivory understood that failure to follow Coach Walsh’s directions could endanger his spot on the team and that Coach Walsh would institute procedures for revoking his athletic scholarship,” May wrote. “In short, Coach Walsh controlled virtually all aspects of Mr. Ivory’s life, including his education, housing and future career.”

Ivory’s athletic scholarship provided for his tuition and books, and he received a $3,600 stipend per quarter to pay for housing, food and incidentals.

In the morning of Aug. 10, according to the motion, Ivory had arrived at Cal Poly’s football facility for a mandatory team meeting when a position coach told him and Brito to report immediately to Walsh’s office. When they arrived, two detectives were there, speaking with Walsh.

“The detectives had decided that the suspects were football players and they made a tactical decision to use Coach Walsh to apprehend Mr. Ivory, Mr. Brito and a third teammate, (Dominique) Love, for their alleged roles in the incident,” states the motion.

While Ivory had asked about getting an attorney before speaking to police, the motion states, the coach’s “undue influence” coerced him to talk without legal representation.

Walsh ordered Mr. Ivory to “tell them what happened” and “to be truthful,” the motion states. Having seen his coach and the detectives “working hand in hand” and fearful of what might happen if he ignored his coach, the motion notes, Mr. Ivory discussed what had occurred the previous night.

“This immense imbalance made Mr. Ivory believe that he had no choice but to comply when his coach, in the presence of the two detectives who later questioned Mr. Ivory at the police station, directed Mr. Ivory to talk to the police,” May’s motion states.

After Ivory spoke to detectives, he was then formally booked and released on bond.

According to the motion, Walsh actively assisted the San Luis Obispo Police Department in the investigation, sending eight of his players to be interviewed. Hence, he became a “state actor” in the eyes of the law.

“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. “Such conduct has nothing to do with drawing up a passing play or instructing his team on the fundamentals of blocking and tackling.”

Deputy District Attorney Eric Dobroth, who is prosecuting the case, was out of town Thursday and not available for comment. Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said he could not comment on the case because he had not yet seen the 15-page motion.

“We’re confident that it will be fairly litigated in court,” Cunningham said.

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