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Athlete sentenced to probation for making annoying phone calls

STANFORD -- Eric Abrams, a Stanford student-athlete, pleaded no contest on March 28 to misdemeanor charges of making annoying phone calls.

From last June through January, the 22-year-old senior reportedly made dozens of phone calls to high school athletes and their families posing as a Stanford coach and using either fictitious names or names of other people at Stanford, according to Jack Marshall of the Santa Clara County district attorney's office.

The calls included requests for nude photos of the high school football and basketball players that Abrams, a football place-kicker, allegedly said were necessary for the Stanford Athletics Department to assess how much the athletes would grow, Marshall said. The district attorney, who determined he could not prove any sexual intent, charged Abrams with seven counts of annoying phone calls, one count for each of the seven counties where his victims lived. Those were Alameda, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo and Riverside counties in California; Montgomery County in Pennsylvania; and Jefferson County in Alabama.

"Most of [the victims] thought he sounded too young to be a bona fide recruiter," Marshall said, "and a lot of them, as near as I can tell, took no action. Some [calls] were reported to police."

Palo Alto Municipal Court Judge Randle Schneider sentenced Abrams to three years' probation with the condition that he undergo psychiatric counseling as directed by the county probation department, pay a $200 fine, do 100 hours of volunteer service, and make restitution to any of the victims who are able to show that they suffered a definable loss. The judge also ordered Abrams never again to present himself as a representative of Stanford University.

The maximum penalty for each charge is a $1,000 fine and six months in jail, but Marshall said he did not recommend the maximum. "Based on information made available to us, I think there is a psychological problem aggravated by stress. . . . We are more interested in getting at the problem, rather than punitive measures."

Thomas Nolan, a Palo Alto attorney representing Abrams, issued a statement saying that Abrams "regrets his involvement in the pranks that were carried too far. He intended no harm and he accepts the consequences of his actions."

Abrams is the Stanford football team's all-time leading scorer with 289 points, and was named to the First-team Academic All-Pac 10 in 1994. He is a psychology major from San Diego.

The case was investigated by Sgt. Filemon Zaragoza of the Santa Clara Police Department with assistance from Stanford police and U.S. postal authorities, Marshall said. The Santa Clara police were contacted by the family of a Wilcox High School football player who first discussed the phone calls with the athlete's high school coach.

Abrams was arrested on Jan. 26 outside the Stanford post office after he picked up a registered package that had been sent to a post office box there, as part of a sting operation arranged by police. He was questioned and released while police continued to investigate the case. Charges were filed on March 28, and the plea was entered and the sentence announced the same day. Nolan presented psychiatric evaluations to the district attorney's office, Marshall said, which contributed to the decision to recommend probation and counseling.

The case drew publicity in a number of California newspapers after the Stanford Daily first reported it on Feb. 28. Despite the publicity, Marshall said, "we tried to treat this case as any other."

Dean of Students Marc Wais said the case has been referred to judicial affairs for investigation of a potential violation of Stanford's Fundamental Standard of student conduct. "As is the long-standing policy of the university, I am not allowed to say any more," Wais said.

It has been the university's practice to issue annual statistical reports listing the number and types of violations and sanctions issued for the previous year, but not to report on the results of individual cases.



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