Friday, March 5, 1999

St. Louis senior
arrested in threat
to teacher

Tamotu 'Junior' Tagoai, 19,
an all-state defensive end,
faces a year in jail

By Pat Bigold
and Rod Ohira


Police have charged a St. Louis all-state defensive end for allegedly threatening a teacher.

Tamotu "Junior" Tagoai, 19, was arrested on campus at 11:15 a.m. yesterday and charged as an adult with misdemeanor second-degree terroristic threatening.

The senior was released after posting $100 bail. He will be arraigned Tuesday in District Court. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor threatening is one year in jail.

A first-year physics teacher, Gerilyn Tolentino Corpuz, filed the complaint, police said.

According to police, the teacher alleges that when Tagoai told her Feb. 8, "I have two words for you: Tony Tata," it was meant as a threat.

Corpuz, 23, a biochemistry honors graduate of Boston College, said she is also seeking a temporary restraining order against the player.

She said Tagoai's use of the name Tony Tata meant that he would do to her what Tata was suspended for last May.

The Star-Bulletin quoted St. Louis' president, the Rev. Mario Pariante, in a Sept. 30 story as saying Tata, a former St. Louis all-state defensive lineman now at the University of Nebraska, smashed the windshield of a teacher's truck with a rock outside the teacher's home a week before last year's graduation.

Corpuz said the 6-3, 280-pound lineman's movements frightened her as he made the alleged threat.

"He was rolling up his sleeves, and his face got all flushed like he was ready to do something right there," said Corpuz.

Corpuz said she decided to file charges Wednesday after repeated attempts to obtain disciplinary support from dean of students Charley Hall (a junior varsity football coach at the school), Principal Burton Tomita and Pariante.

The teacher said that after the alleged threat by Tagoai, she had asked Hall to have him removed from her class. "His response to me was that I shouldn't be paranoid."

She said he told her he would speak to Tagoai about the incident. But Corpuz said she was surprised when the player returned to her class without her ever being consulted.

Corpuz said she also went to Tomita, who told her that Tagoai was "just a kid who made a stupid mistake."

Corpuz said she held off calling police until Tagoai, who has signed to play at the University of Nebraska, made another gesture that frightened her Monday during school.

Corpuz said he picked up a yardstick near the end of class, walked in her direction from the back of the classroom, glanced at her and made a half-turn, swiping at the air as if he was hitting a baseball.

Corpuz said her resignation had been accepted by Pariante, who left for Nepal on Feb. 26. He has not returned and was unavailable for comment.

She said Pariante, in his letter accepting her resignation, said the incident with Tagoai was her fault, noting she had failed to impose "proper classroom discipline."

Corpuz said her Jan. 15 teacher evaluation said, "Geri is a first-year teacher who is well-organized, is very assertive and well-respected."

Tomita said administrators investigated the incident and found that Tagoai's statement to the teacher was not a verbal threat.

"The statement leaves itself open to a lot of interpretation," Tomita said. "The school does not condone harassment or bullying. There was no shoving or pushing, but for making the statement, there was an appropriate consequence.

"The teacher agreed with the consequence. I thought it was resolved."

Tomita declined to specify the punishment.

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