BRADENTON -- A Manatee County school board member has been ordered to testify as part of the case against a former Manatee High assistant football coach accused of inappropriately touching students and others at the school.
Roderick Frazier, 36, is charged with seven counts of battery and three misdemeanor counts of interfering with school attendance. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Defense attorney Edwin Mulock filed the motion to depose school board member Julie Aranibar on Feb. 27, stating that she had information that is relevant to the case. The motion claims that during the deposition of the main
investigating officer, it was revealed that Aranibar had conversations with one of the witnesses in the case.
In a hearing on several motions Friday, Manatee County Judge Doug Henderson ordered that Aranibar be deposed, despite some initial misgivings.
"I am trying to verify what this witness is telling me," Mulock said in court Friday. "I have a right to try to discredit them."
During depositions, Mulock said a second witness claimed to have created a "family tree" of those close to Robert Gagnon, a former principal at Manatee High facing charges related to the Frazier case, and gave it to Aranibar, who later gave it to Superintendent Rick Mills.
"My fear is that all these witnesses have probably talked to a lot of people about what happened," Henderson said. "But I don't know if that entitles the defense to depose them all."
Mulock insisted the defense has a right to verify that information.
"It stems from whether this family tree was given to Mr. Mills and that he is trying to get rid of these people," Mulock said. "This is a very complex case that is intertwined in all the other cases."
On Tuesday, attorney James Dye, representing Aranibar and the school board, filed their opposition to the motion for deposition, according to court records.
The witness, a student mentor at Manatee High School, had approached Aranibar after reportedly seeing behavior between Frazier and a female student that she felt was inappropriate, according to the Bradenton Police investigative report. Aranibar directed her to call the state of Florida Child Abuse hotline, according to what she told investigators.
In a court filing, Dye said the defense has already deposed people with direct knowledge, both the student mentor and the investigator, and has not shown proof of good cause to interview Aranibar.
If Aranibar were deposed, Dye wrote, it would have an adverse impact on school board proceedings, including scheduled administrative hearings for three of the administrators implicated in the Frazier case, according to the court document. Dye requested Aranibar be dropped from the witness list.
Three former school district officials, including Gagnon and former assistant principals Matthew Kane and Gregg Faller, still face felony charges they did not report suspicions of child abuse to the state abuse hotline. The school district is in the process of trying to fire them.
Meanwhile, their trial is set for June 16.
Former school district investigator Debra Horne in February entered a pre-trial intervention program that will result in the charges against her being dropped if successfully completed. Horne, who initially handled the investigation of Frazier, was charged with one felony count of failure to report child abuse.
A second motion to depose a graduation coach at Palmetto High School was denied.
The defense was seeking to depose the staffer to discredit one of the alleged victims in the case, who he said has blamed Frazier for her bad behavior, grades and attendance in school. By deposing the potential witness, Mulock was hoping to prove otherwise.
In other motions regarding the case, Henderson reserved ruling.
Frazier's case was tentatively set for trial for June 2 at a pretrial conference last month. Frazier's defense is expected to request the case be delayed, however, at the next pretrial conference set for April 22.
On Friday, Henderson urged attorneys from both sides to work toward this date, despite Mulock's urging that there was still much work to be done.
Allegations against Frazier were originally investigated in November 2012, while he was placed on paid leave for one day. The school district never reported it to police.
On Feb. 7, 2013, the Bradenton Police Department learned of the allegations and began its own investigation. The State Attorney's Office's Crimes Against Children Division also launched an investigation two days later.
Charges were formally filed by the state attorney's office on July 19.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.