Pasadena, CA — As part of a last-second plea agreement, the La Salle High School varsity girls basketball team agreed to a plead guilty on Tuesday to charges that they tortured and subsequently murdered the sport of basketball over a period of five weeks in early 2011.
The plea agreement came about as a result of charges brought forth following the team’s February 22, 2011 contest with East Valley High School.
According to charges filed in Los Angeles County Court, La Salle was trailing East Valley by a score of 23-1 late in the fourth quarter when lead referee Jerry Daniels paused the game, called local law enforcement to the school, and instructed officers to detain the La Salle players and coaching staff on charges that they “violently and maliciously destroyed the game I love.”
Police responded immediately to La Salle High School, where they were seen forcibly taking several players into custody through the use of pepper spray and department-issued tasers.
“When we arrived at the gym on the evening of the 22nd, it was obvious that somebody had committed a serious offense against the sport of basketball,” said Detective Monty Allison of the Pasadena Police Department. “The spectators were visibly shaken, the scoreboard was on the verge of shorting out from lack of activity, and the game ball had serious cuts and bruises in its skin—injuries consistent with being dribbled off a foot, shot against the backside of a backboard, or thrown haphazardly out of bounds. I’ve never seen anything like it in my 25 years on the force.”
While witness reactions at the game varied, the vast majority of fans in attendance agreed that something needed to be done to halt the La Salle players from further threatening both the safety of the sport of basketball and the world at large.
“Not only were these girls a danger to a sport that can’t protect itself,” said sports activist Jeremy Bettany. “They were also a danger to the laws of physics. I saw one of the girls get whistled for traveling and double-dribbling at the same time. I’m no physicist, but I’m pretty sure that’s how you create a black hole.”
Law enforcement at the scene also briefly took East Valley players into custody, but eventually released the team after each player passed a series of basic basketball skill tests—including the making of one free throw, executing at least one clean bounce-pass, and dribbling with their off-hand for five seconds without interruption.
The original murder indictment, brought forth by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jefferey Mears, named all eleven members of La Salle’s varsity girls basketball team, as well as head coach Susan Westlake, assistant coach Linda Mueller, and student equipment manager Danielle Martin. Charges against Martin were later dropped when it was revealed that she was getting felt up by a member of the concession stand staff at the time of the murder.
Testimony during the two-week trial was often contentious, including the following interaction between lead prosecutor Greg Phillips and La Salle junior guard Melinda Wentel.
Ms. Wentel, at the time of your arrest, you had zero points, were 0-8 from the field, had seven turnovers, and had committed three offensive fouls. Why do you hate the game of basketball?
Wentel (eyes watering):
I don’t hate it. None of us intended to hurt the sport. We all love it.
But you do admit that you were, in fact, harming the sport?
I didn’t say that.
Well, you just said you didn’t “intend” to hurt the sport. Doesn’t that mean that you actually did hurt it, regardless of intent?
You’re putting words in my mouth!
So, now you’re telling this court that I’m putting things in your mouth? Is accusing men of putting things in your mouth a common occurrence in your daily life, Ms. Wentel?
Wentel (sobbing uncontrollably):
I didn’t say that! Stop it! Stop it please!
You are a liar and a whore, Ms. Wentel.
The prosecution rests.
Following defense testimony, attorneys for the La Salle players and coaches met with prosecuting attorneys behind closed doors, agreeing to a plea agreement shortly before 10 pm on Monday evening.
According to the plea agreement, the La Salle players and coaches will each serve 20 years at the Valley State Prison for Women, followed by a supervised probation and 500 hours of community service.
Convicted players will also be prohibited from touching a basketball or setting foot on a basketball court without law enforcement present for a period of no less than ten years. Further, players and coaches will be forced to notify residents of their status as convicted shitty basketball players when moving into new neighborhoods.
Despite the severity of the players’ and coaches’ sentences, many long-time La Salle basketball fans feel as though the players still may have gotten off lightly.
“I brought my six-year-old granddaughter to a game back in January,” said Pasadena resident Janet Meissner. “She hasn’t slept a full night since. No amount of prison time is going to make her nightmares go away. She is completely fucked.”