Parents Concerned About Coach's Criminal Record
Valley Breeze & Observer, Joseph LaPlante
NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I.--Some parents this week are challenging a decision by the North Providence Youth Basketball Association to accept as a coach a man with a lengthy criminal record that includes violent crimes, obtaining money under false pretences and shoplifting from 1995 to 2006.
Michael Sugrue, 49, coaches both a league team and the league's all-star traveling team. His criminal record was disclosed to league officials when he submitted a required criminal background information report, both he and a league official told The Breeze.
League president John Hagan said he supports Sugrue and responded, "Doesn't he deserve a second chance?" when confronted by The Breeze.
For his part, Sugrue asserted to The Breeze he is a changed man, has stayed out of trouble for the past several years and now strives to be a good husband, good father and a good responsible coach.
The Breeze learned about Sugrue's criminal background in a phone call from local businessman and former professional golfer Joseph Iaciofano, who owns several commercial properties in North Providence and area towns.
Iaciofano's stepson plays on the league's traveling all-star team coached by Sugrue.
"My issues are with the poor decision made by the league," Iaciofano told The Breeze.
Iaciofano said he is flabbergasted that the background criminal information requirement that league sets as a standard was not observed in Sugrue's case.
Sugrue contends it is no coincidence that Iaciofano is raising objections at this point in the season when his stepson is not seeing much playing time under Sugrue.
"If he is so concerned about my coaching, why is his stepson still playing on my team?" Sugrue asked during an interview with The Breeze. "I would think if he did have a problem with me, instead of running to the local paper, he would talk to me. We could have made an adjustment, in more playing time."
Sugrue said that he was released from coaching in the league in 2006 because of his criminal record. He said he is a well respected baseball coach and also holds a good reputation as a baseball umpire.
Sugrue said he applied for readmission to coaching in the league last fall. Hagan said that Sugrue's BCI report was reviewed by several leaders in the league and it was decided he could be trusted as a coach with his reputation in another league as baseball coach playing a large part in the decision.
The BCI report that the league reviewed in making its decision about Sugrue included the following charges and dispositions:
- Felony assault with a dangerous weapon, and simple assault and battery, July 27, 1995, nolo contendre (Nolo contendre means a person is not contesting the charges. When a defendant takes a nolo contendre plea in Rhode Island, the defendant is indicating that he does not want to contest the charges but is also essentially admitting to the charges.)
- Obtaining money under false pretences, March 31, 1995, nolo contendre.
- Obstructing a police officer, driving a motor vehicle with a suspended license, receiving stolen goods, July 24, 1996, nolo contendre.
- Simple assault and battery, March 6, 1996, nolo contendre.
- Shoplifting, March 20, 1995 and misdemeanor shoplifting, June 28, 2002, nolo contendre in both cases.
Sugrue invited the parents of his players to a meeting Saturday, Jan. 28 to discuss the controversy that started swirling in the last week or two around his criminal history and his fitness as a coach.
Iaciofano forwarded to the The Breeze both the e-mail that Sugrue sent to his wife, Sheri Lepore, notifying the couple of the meeting and Iaciofano's own response to Sugrue.
Sugrue told The Breeze Monday, Jan. 30, that he was forced to cancel the meeting because another team was playing in the gym where he planned to talk to parents. He said he will reschedule the meeting with parents.