BRADENTON, Fla. – While four Manatee High School administrators face felony charges, accused of not reporting former assistant football coach Rod Frazier's alleged misconduct, Frazier must defend himself only against misdemeanors, thanks to another famous case that has some parallels to this one.
It was after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case at Penn State that the Florida legislature passed the law last year that requires anyone who suspects child abuse to report it.
Manatee head football coach Joe Kinnan led his team through a tackle scrimmage Friday night, ensconsed within a fenced-off field, a wall around his program in more ways than one. Fans who came to watch said they respected Kinnan's wishes not to talk about the Frazier case. One told ABC 7 off camera that, "they're trying to make this like Penn State." Another added, "We're not that big."
But there are similarities. “We're talking about a national level recognized football program, a program that plays on national television,” says Sarasota defense attorney Mark Zimmerman, who is not involved in the case. “So, of course, that's what's going to make this so newsworthy and interesting.”
But, while he sees parallels – schools where the football programs bring prestige, make money, and carry a lot of weight on campus. And Manatee's original investigation into Frazier's alleged inappropriate touching of female students lasted one day, ending the day before a Manatee playoff game. Still, Zimmerman says, “It is highly unlikely that people would risk their careers, risk criminal punishment, so an assistant coach would remain on the job. That's a stretch.”
And that punishment could include real prison time. The four administrators accused face felony charges. Frazier faces misdemeanors, but faces several counts, and Zimmerman believes that a total sentence would add up to more time behind bars for him, if he's convicted. “I would be surprised, if it wasn't the case if coach Frazier, if he serves any time at all, doesn't serve more time, even on lesser charges than these administrators who are facing more serious charges,” Zimmerman says.
Could the administrators' cooperation, in exchange for lesser charges or lighter punishment, lead to more trouble for Frazier? Zimmerman thinks it's possible, but that the police and the state attorney's office has investigated this thoroughly enough by now that they've filed all the charges they can.