Defense wants 10 trials in case against former Manatee High coach Rod Frazier

Prosecutors say charges against former coach are 'related offenses'

mmasferrer@bradenton.comNovember 15, 2013 

BRADENTON -- The details of the 10 criminal charges against former Manatee High coach and parent liaison Rod Frazier are sufficiently different to justify holding 10 separate trials, his attorney argued in court on Friday.

Some of the victims were children, some were adults, and in some instances the seven counts of battery and three counts of school interference do not refer to specific acts, yet the state has "thrown them all together," potentially prejudicing the case against Frazier, said defense attorney Edwin T. Mulock.

Prosecutors have a differing view, arguing there are enough similar "unique circumstances" in the charges -- the nature of the crimes that Frazier is accused of, for example, and that all of the reported victims were either students or staff members at Manatee High -- to instead hold a single trial.

"The batteries happened in the school to students by Mr. Frazier," said Assistant State Attorney Heather Doyle.

Circuit Judge Doug Henderson did not rule on whether to separate the cases, saying he wants to research relevant case law before deciding.

Frazier, who was not in court Friday, has pleaded not guilty to all the misdemeanor charges.

Frazier resigned this past summer after he was suspended while authorities investigated accusations of improper contact between Frazier and students and other staff members at Manatee High. The charges relate to incidents that reportedly date back to 2006.

The legal wrangling Friday was preceded by a written motion filed last month by Mulock, and the prosecution's re

sponse this week.

Mulock wrote that the three school interference charges and seven battery charges are "separate distinct offenses ... and are not related in any way whatsoever."

Additionally, the battery charges "are separate episodes occurring at different times, different victims and are not connected in episodic sense," Mulock wrote. "Severance is mandated to achieve a fair determination of the defendant's guilt or innocence."

In response, Assistant State Attorney Keith Humphrey told Judge Henderson the charges against Frazier are tied together by a "common scheme," and that trying them jointly is proper in order to understand Frazier's actions.

"The charged offenses are properly joined as they are 'related offenses' based on two or more connected acts or transactions," Humphrey wrote in the state's response to Mulock's motion.

Holding 10 separate trials with 10 separate juries would further delay resolution of a case that has rocked the school district this year. Attorneys said they are still taking depositions from potential witnesses, and other pre-trial motions remain pending.

Aside from the cases against Frazier, four school district officials, including a former principal and two assistant principals at Manatee High, face charges they did not properly report to the state allegations that Frazier had abused students -- even though Frazier has not been charged with child abuse.

It was not clear when Henderson might rule on severing the cases.

In response to another motion from Mulock, Henderson ruled that police and prosecutors did not have to provide Mulock with copies of images downloaded from Frazier's computer that depict unidentified females in various states of undress.

Mulock said he has viewed the images at the Bradenton Police Department. But state law bars the release to a criminal defendant duplicates of material that portrays sexual performance by a child or child pornography.

Prosecutors said there is no way to determine the age of the people in the photographs.

Whether prosecutors will be able to use the images as evidence against Frazier is not certain. Doyle said the prosecution had not decided whether to use them, and Mulock already has filed a motion to block their introduction.

On another motion, Henderson denied Mulock's request to take depositions from reporters at the Bradenton Herald and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about what reported victims in the case have told the newspapers. Mulock said he did not want information about the newspapers' sources, but instead wanted to explore possible inconsistencies between what the victims told police and what they told journalists.

Rachel Fugate, attorney for the newspapers, said whether the victims gave inconsistent statements is "all speculation." Regardless, she said, uncovering information that could be used to impeach trial witnesses was not sufficient cause to set aside privileges enjoyed by journalists under state law.

Henderson told Mulock he could re-file his request if future developments warrant more argument.

Henderson also denied Mulock's request to depose Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski about the case. City Attorney William Lisch argued Radzilowski only assigned the Frazier case to detectives and did not participate in the investigation.

Mulock said he wanted to question the police chief about comments he had heard Radzilowski had made about the case.

Lisch said Mulock was on a "fishing expedition."

Marc Masferrer, Herald metro editor, can be reached at 941-745-7050.

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