High-school water polo player faces charges for breaking opponent's nose

An East Bay community is trying to understand how a high-school water polo player ended up in the criminal justice system for something that happened during a game.

The 15-year-old student is facing possible felony charges of assault and battery. It stems from an incident in a tournament game back in September when an opposing player suffered a broken nose.

At Acalanes High School, a big topic of discussion is one student's plight in the legal system. "I don't know the kid too well, so I wouldn't know. But I don't think anyone would try to break someone else's nose," said one student.

At Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek in September, the Acalanes junior varsity water polo team was playing Bellarmine High from San Jose. Somehow a Bellarmine player suffered a broken nose.

An email sent by the local chapter of USA Water Polo to parents, says as the Acalanes player was transitioning from offense to defense, the player's nose was inadvertently broken. It adds the District Attorney has formally filed felony assault charges, calling it outrageous.

KTVU spoke by phone with the head of the D.A.'s juvenile division, who said the email was fabricated and false. She would give no details about the incident itself, other than to say that she had seen video of the incident many times, the implication being that there was nothing inadvertent about the broken nose.

At the Acalanes High School district office, Superintendent John Nickerson said he too has seen the video, and that it was more than just two players jockeying for position.

"We won't make comment because it's a student matter," he said. Nickerson wouldn't share any details, but it was clear he would have been satisfied dealing with this internally. "It is a little surprising that the DA is involved in assessing this case."

The Bellarmine student's broken nose required surgery, and perhaps that's what sent this case into the realm of criminal justice. "I don't think the police or anything should be involved in this," said an Acalanes student

Some parents are also upset. "That does seem a little severe to me. And I think it could have been handled a little differently amongst the parents. It's certainly horrible for someone to have to face something like that, that possibly that could ruin his life," said parent Mark Marrott.

No one at Bellarmine High returned KTVU’s calls.

The D.A.'s office says this case could be resolved very soon. With what's called deferred judgment, any charges that are filed could eventually be dismissed.

The D.A.'s office also told KTVU that the national USA Water Polo Association said the email sent was unauthorized, and that it was disavowing this use of its letterhead.