OAK HILLS — A transferring football player to Oak Hills High School says an older sibling had issued warnings.
This revelation was contained in a deposition that is part of a lawsuit filed nearly two years ago that alleged ritual hazing and sexual beatings in the Oak Hills High School football program.
"My brother would tell me to be careful about some things," John BE Doe told attorney Skye L. Daley on July 28, 2015, from inside the Hawthorn Suites hotel in Victorville.
"Okay," Daley responded. "Like what?"
"Like if the lights go out in the locker room, to put your back against the locker room or lockers," Doe said, "and keep your fists ready."
The defensive stance was designed, he acknowledged, to protect him "from a lot of the older kids trying to do things to me."
Doe's two-hour, two-minute deposition transcripts and others are part of documents included in a February court filing by Daley, an attorney with the Irvine-based firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.
The depositions include one conducted with Daley's client, a teenager identified only as "John VZ Doe," who is at the center of the lawsuit alleging school officials cultivated a "long-lasting tradition of ritual hazing and sexual beatings" within its football program.
The Daily Press has learned ESPN is currently investigating those allegations and Daley said last week that a trial could finally commence in late September.
It's been nearly two years since the suit was filed against the Hesperia Unified School District and officials with Oak Hills High School, accusing them of setting up an environment that nurtured systemic abuse by older football players against younger ones.
Attorneys representing the defendants have denied all claims. In their formal answer to allegations, they called the litigation a "bad faith action which is frivolously filed and known to be such" by the plaintiff and his attorneys.
In August 2014, when the Daily Press first reported on the lawsuit filed on behalf of the mother to the purported victim, HUSD Superintendent David McLaughlin called the claims "deeply disturbing" and vowed that a "thorough" internal investigation would be launched.
It's unclear whether that investigation is complete, what was discovered and whether any actions were taken. HUSD Assistant Superintendent David Olney was in Florida last week and could not get in touch with others involved with the investigation. Attorney Dennis G. Popka, who is representing the district and had been present during the depositions attached in court documents, was in trial Friday and could not immediately comment, his office said.
The depositions, expected to grow to at least 30 in number before trial, Daley told the Daily Press, include sit-downs with responding officers, witnesses and school personnel, as well as expert testimony. He added more could occur as they identify other purported victims or others with knowledge of alleged hazing activities.
Depositions will not, however, include McLaughlin. On April 13, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Gilbert Ochoa granted a motion filed by the defense for a protective order to keep McLaughlin from being deposed, saying he had no "unique or superior knowledge about the subject incident."
"Supt. McLaughlin is a high ranking government official who should be protected from fishing expeditions," they argued in one court document.
The "subject incident" of which McLaughlin had no "unique or superior knowledge," meanwhile, is detailed in the plaintiff's deposition given last year in which he recalled the alleged August 2013 incident: At the locker room urinal, wearing his PE clothes, the purported victim said two boys pinned him against a wall while a third pulled his gym shorts to his ankles and stuck two fingers into his rectum, according to deposition transcripts.
Daley attached two school police reports to court documents, one that revolved around claims of sadomasochistic sexual harassment between Aug. 12 and Nov. 17, 2013, where "students would fondle the plaintiff's buttocks and threaten to digitally penetrate the plaintiff."
The other is connected to the specific incident claim that the plaintiff was digitally penetrated, and Hesperia Mayor Bill Holland, then a school district police officer, was the reporting officer for both.
On Oct. 20, 2015, Holland was deposed in Hesperia. He said then-district Police Chief Michael Graham, who reported to McLaughlin, "pretty much handled the majority of the communication" with respect to the case.
Holland had been a volunteer football coach at Oak Hills for three years, ending before the reports were filed, and said he had coaching relationships with three of the coaches named in the lawsuit. It's a connection that Daley will likely use to argue for a conflict of interest.
"As you sit here today, having gone through this investigation," Daley asked Holland, according to the transcripts, "do you think there was hazing going on on the football team?"
Popka interjected, pointing to how Holland had not been designated as an expert and underscoring how the response would be merely an opinion. With that understood, he allowed Holland to answer.
"Looking back," Holland said, "probably."
Shea Johnson may be reached at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.