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Accused prankster pleads not guilty to recording calls to coaches

A man accused of making prank calls to several well-known sports coaches and then illegally recording them pleaded not guilty Monday to one felony count of eavesdropping.

Prosecutors have said that Kenneth Edward Tarr, 32, posed as a recruiter for pro teams and universities during calls in October and November to at least six college and professional coaches.

Court documents name victims including NBC broadcaster and Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, who was duped about a football coaching job at USC, and recently fired Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who was contacted about a fake Dallas Cowboys job. Cleveland Indians President Mark Shapiro was told he was talking to Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti, according to investigators.

Tarr broke the law by not seeking the sports figures' consent before recording the calls, the L.A. County district attorney's office has said. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

Tarr entered his plea in a downtown courthouse, where he was accompanied by his mother, father, brother and three attorneys.

Robert Sheahen, one of the attorneys, told reporters that authorities had bowed to pressure from the NFL, singling out Tarr while individuals such as actor and television producer Ashton Kutcher go unpunished for similar pranks.

"To file felony charges on a case like this is absurd," Sheahen said. "He's a performance artist and social satirist, who in pushing the bounds of social satire, ran afoul of the National Football League."

Police arrested Tarr at his Hollywood home in early December, soon after NFL security consultant Dan McNeal discussed the incidents with a Los Angeles Police Department detective. McNeal, who initially thought Tarr might be living in San Bernardino County, told the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department that the NFL wanted felony charges filed against Tarr, according to court documents.

Tarr, who has bragged about his exploits in the media, caught the attention of authorities in October when Dungy said on a radio show that he had been contacted by USC about its football team's head coaching vacancy. USC Athletic Director Pat Haden later said someone had been impersonating a university official.

Other victims named in court documents include University of Hawaii football Coach Norm Chow, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, Golden State Warriors Coach Mark Jackson and University of Florida football Coach Will Muschamp.

Tarr remains free after posting $20,000 bail. He is due back in court Feb. 18.

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