Clovis News

Clovis wrestler files writ to erase expulsion

Lawyers filed court documents Monday seeking to erase the expulsion of a former Buchanan High student who was accused of sexual battery after executing a wrestling move during practice.

The 55-page writ filed in Fresno County Superior Court contends Preston Hill did not get a fair expulsion hearing from the Clovis Unified School District.

The court filing comes after three panels of local school officials decided that expulsion was the right punishment for Hill, 17. The high school senior contends he was doing a legitimate wrestling move called a "butt-drag" on a freshman teammate when he grabbed the teammate's butt cheek.

The teammate, however, told Clovis police and school officials that Hill rammed two fingers into his anus during a practice at Buchanan in July in an attempt to humiliate and bully him.

In February, the Fresno County Board of Education upheld Clovis Unified School District's decision to expel Hill. The Clovis board of trustees had followed the recommendation of its expulsion panel.

But Hill's lawyers -- Charles Magill and his wife, Laura Guzman Magill -- said Monday in court documents that Clovis Unified's initial expulsion hearing was flawed on many fronts.

For example, Hill didn't get a fair hearing because the attorneys for the school district and its expulsion panel are from the same law firm, Lozano Smith.

"The attorneys failed to disclose this apparent conflict prior to the hearing," the documents said.

Hill's attorneys also alleged that Clovis Unified's attorney intentionally submitted false declarations from witnesses to the expulsion panel. In addition, the expulsion panel refused to give proper consideration to Hill's expert witness who testified that the alleged sexual assault was not "physically possible," the document said. Magill and his wife raised these issues at the county education hearing on Feb. 17. Attorney Frank Fekete, who represents the Clovis Unified school board, told the county education board that the school district's lawyers didn't have a conflict and that Hill received a fair hearing.

Hill, who was suspended at the start of the school year and later expelled, is attending another school, but his lawyers and parents have declined to say where.

The alleged victim's father said Monday that Hill and his parents should accept the punishment and move on. "Expulsion was the right thing to do. Three panels have said so," the father said.

Hill's case has garnered widespread attention since the alleged victim told police and school officials about the incident. Hill, however, told police he never threatened the boy, and that he had only grabbed his teammate's butt cheek in the wrestling move.

When Clovis school trustees voted unanimously Jan. 19 to expel Hill, they agreed he had committed sexual battery, bullied his teammate, committed an obscene act and caused or attempted to cause physical injury to another student. But when the Fresno County Board of Education discussed Hill's expulsion on Feb. 17, opinions were divided.

After 80 minutes of deliberations, trustees Delbert Cederquist, Keith Eubanks and Barbara Thomas voted to uphold the expulsion. Trustees Allen Clyde and Sally Tannenbaum dissented, saying Hill didn't receive a fair hearing from Clovis Unified.