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
insignificant, after accusing someone of committing such a terrible
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.
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
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,
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
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
“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
“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.