Former Pomona High student who says track coach raped her in the ’90s is awarded $35 million

Pomona High School's red brick exterior and sign
A former Pomona High student who said she was raped by her coach in 1997 while at a track and field meet in Nevada was awarded $35 million in damages Tuesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A former Pomona High School student who said she was raped at age 16 by her coach was awarded $35 million in damages Tuesday by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury.

The woman is one of eight in the last two years who have sued the Pomona Unified School District and a handful of men who coached at Pomona High School — some of whom are still coaching at other schools. Their allegations have included sexual grooming, sexual abuse and rape.

The woman is now in her 40s and was identified in court documents as Jane Doe No. 4. The plaintiff said she was raped by her former coach, Herman Hopson, in 1997 while at a school track and field meet in Nevada.


Others who were sued include Brian Crichlow, now women’s basketball coach at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut; Derrick Pugh; and onetime Ganesha High School girls’ basketball coach Vincent Spirlin.

Their accusers — former cheerleaders, students and student athletes — have alleged that, in incidents in the 1990s, the men took them into their confidence, spent time with them and shared personal stories, sometimes openly flirting and engaging in sexually charged talk.

Those actions, they say, eventually led to underage alcohol usage encouraged and facilitated by the coaches, as well as sexual abuse and, in the case of Jane Doe No. 4, rape.

“It’s just nuts the number of the women who have filed claims against these men, these coaches,” said attorney John Taylor, of Manhattan Beach-based Taylor & Ring, who along with attorney Natalie Weatherford represents Jane Doe No. 4. “The most incredible thing throughout these trials is the courage of these women. It’s been brutal for them.”

Jane Doe No. 4 was a member of the Pomona High School track and field team in spring 1997 when the squad traveled to Las Vegas for a meet. She argued with Kitrick Taylor, a former NFL player who was head coach of the team, over some aspect of the meet on the night before the team was to return home to L.A. County.

Three women, former Pomona High students, are suing four former male coaches alleging that when they were students at the school in the 1990s, they were sexually abused by the men.

Feb. 10, 2023

Hopson, an assistant coach, recommended that Jane Doe No. 4 visit him in his room at the Days Inn Motel to discuss the issue, according to court documents.


In the room, an inebriated Hopson kissed the youngster, removed her clothes and forced himself on her, according to the documents. Hopson first penetrated Jane Doe No. 4 with his fingers before using his genitals, the documents say.

For the record:

12:48 p.m. Jan. 26, 2024An earlier version of this article referred to a former Pomona High principal as Gloria Russo. It’s Gloria Todd-Rousseau.

Upon the team’s return home, Jane Doe No. 4 reported the incident to the school’s principal, court documents say. Gloria Todd-Rousseau, the then-principal, told her to “speak to no one about this” and that the administrator would “take care of it,” the documents say.

But Jane Doe No. 4 said she was subsequently subjected to verbal harassment by Kitrick Taylor as well as by classmates and teammates.

“Former Pomona High students testified that the abuse was so rampant,” attorney John Taylor said, “that ‘everyone on the campus knew’ that girls were being taken advantage of by coaches, yet nothing was done.”

As a result of the alleged harassment, Jane Doe No. 4 moved out of state at the end of the school year.

Kitrick Taylor was not questioned by police, nor was he disciplined for his actions, according to court documents.


John Taylor said that, prior to the lawsuits, none of the coaches faced consequences. No criminal charges were filed against the men. The attorney said Spirlin was still working in the school district. Public records confirmed that Spirlin was still employed by Pomona Unified as of 2022.

Calls and an email sent to the district Tuesday seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Six plaintiffs are suing religious group the Fellowship of Friends, founder Robert Earl Burton and an award-winning winery, alleging gender violence and human trafficking.

Dec. 21, 2023

Pomona Unified Supt. Darren Knowles issued a statement Tuesday saying that the current administration only became aware of the allegations from the 1990s in 2018.

“Upon receipt of this information, we immediately contacted law enforcement, and a full investigation was conducted,” he said. “Law enforcement decided to not prosecute.”

Knowles said the school implemented training and student safeguards that include annual mandatory reporter training, training for administrators on how to prevent sexual grooming and enhanced monitoring of athletic and activity programs and directors.

Taylor, the attorney, said the measures were too late to save his plaintiffs.

“Administrators and personnel were aware of the grooming and sexually abusive behavior of multiple coaches, including Herman Hopson,” he said.


Jane Doe No. 4’s verdict is the first financial settlement publicly disclosed. Jane Doe Nos. 1, 2 and 8 previously settled lawsuits with the district. Jane Doe No. 3 also settled on Jan. 16, according to Taylor.

The court cases for Jane Doe Nos. 5, 6 and 7 are still pending.