Lanai girls' coach pleads guilty
He provided liquor to the basketball team while on an Oahu trip
The former coach for the Lanai High girls basketball team apologized for providing liquor to his team during a preseason tournament road trip to Honolulu and vowed never to do it again.
Russell Zablan pleaded guilty yesterday in Honolulu District Court to seven misdemeanor counts of providing liquor to minors between March 10 and 13, 2005, and a single count of harassment involving offensive touching of one of the girls, a petty misdemeanor.
District Judge Rhonda Nishimura granted Zablan's request for a deferral of his plea for one year -- which means his record will be wiped clean if he meets conditions similar to probation.
As a condition of his deferral, Zablan is prohibited from drinking or having any supervision over minors.
Deputy Prosecutor Rich Stacey had argued for jail time, noting the seriousness of Zablan's conduct.
"For a coach to be in a position where you're going to another island and are supposed to be taking care of other people's kids and letting them drink alcohol -- that kind of speaks for itself," Stacey said afterward. "We see this as a very serious violation."
While Zablan did not explain his conduct, Stacey said it definitely appeared to be a case of "bad judgment."
"It seemed kind of like a road trip mentality that they're all going to Oahu, and there seemed to be a plan ahead of time that there was going to be drinking once they got there, which would include the girls," he said.
Although there was an adult female chaperone accompanying the team, "it seemed efforts were made to keep her out of the loop," Stacey said. Also charged with providing alcohol to the girls was assistant coach Dale Kapua, who is awaiting trial in September, and a friend of Zablan's who lived on Oahu but cannot be located.
The drinking apparently occurred every night that the team was here and when the female chaperone was not present or was riding in a separate van, Stacey said.
It occurred in different parts of the island, while they were on the road with the coaches driving and at the Mililani High School gym where the team slept over during their stay, he said. There was also a party on Oahu that the team attended that also involved drinking, Stacey said.
Deputy Public Defender Marcus Landsberg said the court was fair in granting the deferral. "I think everything worked out in this case, and the court still has jurisdiction in this case."
The nine girls who drank were suspended from school and kicked off the girls basketball team as a result of their conduct, and the community was waiting to see what would happen to the adults involved. Zablan and Kapua were fired shortly thereafter.
Despite efforts to put together a new team after the incident, the Pine Lasses withdrew from the remainder of the Maui Interscholastic League season.