2nd Inquiry Over Athletes' Role : Charges Rejected in Marine's Fight Death

Times Staff Writer

After a 2-month review, the county district attorney's office has again decided not to press charges against two Cal State Fullerton football players involved in April's beating death of an El Toro Marine. The decision came despite a recommendation by an independent military investigator that charges be filed.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Melvin L. Jensen said Wednesday that further review of the case failed to turn up sufficient evidence to prosecute.

Relatives Shocked at Decision

Relatives of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Richard W. Bottjer expressed shock and disbelief at the decision.

"I'm angry as hell," said Ralph Bottjer, the victim's father, from his home in St. James, N.Y. "I figured they would make some kind of charge, even if it was minor. I can't believe it went this way."

The district attorney's office had originally found insufficient evidence to prosecute the players, calling the death of Bottjer an "excusable homicide."

Bottjer, 30, a flight information specialist, died April 7 after a brawl with Carlos Siragusa, 21, and John Gibbs, 22, in a parking lot across the street from Baxter's, a Fullerton nightspot.

Bottjer and another Marine, Cpl. Thomas Duran, had scuffled with the athletes inside the bar and had taken the fight across the street after nightclub employees ejected them.

A report based on an investigation conducted by the Marine Corps judge advocate general's office was released in September and disputed the findings of county officials. The report noted that Bottjer was outsized by his opponents.

Jensen said county officials were concerned with several findings brought out in the military report and decided to review their decision. One troubling element was reports that Siragusa and Gibbs had allegedly been drunk and rowdy at a Mexican restaurant before they went to Baxter's.

Jensen said that in his office's review of the case, investigators spoke with witnesses who had seen the athletes and concluded that Siragusa and Gibbs had not been drunk.

Investigators also interviewed another witness who had been at Baxter's but concluded that his information could not be "relied on to use in a prosecution," he said.

Jensen would not elaborate on what information the witness had.

He defended the original investigation conducted by the Fullerton Police Department as "thorough and unbiased."

Bottjer's family has accused county officials of being reluctant to press charges against Gibbs and Siragusa because they were members of a popular football program.

Ralph Bottjer said Wednesday that his family will not let the case rest and will seek the aid of the U.S attorney's office to open a new investigation.

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