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EDITORIAL

Right up there with terrorism, accusing someone of being a child

molester is one of the worst charges you can level against a person. It’s

extremely important for law enforcement to be completely forthright and

scrupulous, observing every legal nuance no matter how seemingly

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insignificant, after accusing someone of committing such a terrible

crime.

You don’t want to get it wrong in such a high-stakes matter, when just

the accusation itself is enough to ruin somebody’s life.

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That’s why we at the News-Press were shocked by the seemingly cavalier

attitude shown by some members of the San Marino Police Department in the

case of La Crescenta resident Patrick Gillan, accused of sexual

misconduct with a former player while a basketball coach for San Marino

High School.

San Marino Police initially said Gillan, 36, was arrested Dec. 17 on

suspicion of assault with intent to commit a felony.

But a document released earlier this month shows Gillan was detained,

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rather than arrested. The detention certificate stated there were

insufficient grounds for making a criminal complaint.

Clearly, this is information important enough to warrant an immediate

clarification by the San Marino Police Department. But calls to the

department were referred to Sgt. Gene Street, who contradicted the

detention certificate by maintaining that Gillan was, in fact, arrested.

Street referred further inquiries to San Marino Police Lt. Chris

Petersen, the investigator on the case. But Petersen, we were told, was

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on vacation for a week and could not be reached.

A week passed, with the question of whether a high school coach was

actually arrested for sexual misconduct hanging in the air. Finally,

Petersen returned, and when pressed for clarification, insisted Gillan

was arrested.

“He was arrested, booked, fingerprinted and given an opportunity to

talk to us,” Petersen said.

But Petersen admitted that a decision was made by the department to

deem the arrest a detention, and to release Gillan. The reason, the

police lieutenant said, was to allow for further investigation of the

case.

“We certainly have enough to present a case to the district attorney’s

office,” Petersen said Jan. 7.

As of Thursday, police have yet to refer the matter to the district

attorney’s office for prosecution, saying they are still developing their

case against the former La Canada High coach.

It would seem that the San Marino Police Department wants to have it

both ways. Gillan, they insist, was arrested for alleged sexual

misconduct. And Gillan, they insist, was merely detained.

Glendale Police Sgt. Kirk Palmer and high-powered criminal defense

attorney Mark Geragos said that to continue to call a detention an arrest

after a detention certificate has been issued is misleading.

We agree. It might be that Gillan is guilty of the crime of which he

is accused. Or he might be innocent. Regardless, given the sensitivity of

the matter, it is imperative that the law enforcement agencies

investigating Gillan remain above board in all their proceedings.

And we must note that the dismissive manner in which San Marino Police

officials dealt with inquiries into the arrest/detention question was

disturbing. The department went so far as to call a news conference Dec.

18 to announce Gillan’s arrest. The department invited media attention to

the case, and thus, it was the department’s responsibility to clear the

air on the matter.

The rest of the investigation into the Gillan case must be handled

much more professionally.


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