McKnight Out

Catholic Church Leaders Protect Mater Dei Coach from Deposition

Last week was lovely for Mater Dei High School boys' basketball coach Gary McKnight. The Monarchs finished their regular season by winning the tough Trinity League, and began their annual march through the California Interscholastic Federation playoffs by whipping Long Beach Wilson 75-51.

Oh, and McKnight narrowly avoided a deposition at the hands of Newport Beach attorney John Manly when an attorney for the Catholic Church's Orange County Diocese suddenly ordered the coach not to testify.

Mater Dei High and former McKnight assistant Jeff Andrade are being sued by Manly—a Mater Dei alumnus—on behalf of a former student who claims Andrade sexually abused her during the mid-1990s. Andrade denied the accusations at the time, but Mater Dei officials forced him to resign and alerted Orange County law enforcement officials. The District Attorney's office and Westminster Police Department investigated the matter, ultimately declining to file charges.

Depositions taken by Manly and his partner Vince Finaldi for the current case have unearthed many shocking revelations, some involving McKnight:

•Andrade dropped nearly a decade of denials and admitted he had sex with the then-15-year-old victim—had sex with her in McKnight's office, even.

•Mater Dei officials ordered McKnight to advise the boys' basketball team against admitting guests into their rooms during team travel after the principal saw Andrade and his victim together in the lobby of a Las Vegas hotel.

•McKnight stormed into a Mater Dei office while school officials interrogated Andrade in 1997 and told his assistant not to speak unless an attorney was present.

•McKnight invited Andrade to assist in fundraising efforts around 2002—this after school officials warned the coach not to allow Andrade back on campus.

This new evidence prompted Manly to filepapers that would allow him to depose McKnight, who apparently did not object. The portly coach, clad in an athletic jump suit, arrived at Manly's offices in Newport Beach on the morning of Feb. 12, accompanied by lawyer Ernest C. Chen.

Just before Manly began the deposition, however, Chen received a call from Thomas Rutherford, attorney for the Catholic Diocese of Orange. Rutherford's message: McKnight was not to participate in any deposition—period.

McKnight's deposition is now delayed until March, when Manly and church attorneys will again square off in court over whether Manly can depose McKnight and other Mater Dei officials associated with the Andrade scandal. If this is a typical Mater Dei basketball season, McKnight's team will be deep into the playoffs by that time.

It remains to be seen whether McKnight can pull the trifecta—regional and state championships, and evading Manly yet again.

GARELLANO@OCWEEKLY.COM

 
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