Ex-Seton Hall Coach Dodges Criminal Record From Shoplifting Arrest

Charges will be dismissed if he completes community service and pays restitution over next year

Fired Seton Hall basketball coach Bobby Gonzalez was accepted into a one-year pretrial intervention program Friday that will allow him to avoid a criminal record stemming from his shoplifting arrest.

Gonzalez will be required to perform 50 hours of community service and pay restitution to a store at the upscale northern New Jersey mall where he was accused of taking a $1,400 satchel. If he completes the one-year program, shoplifting and criminal mischief charges will be dismissed, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

"I'm very happy with the way this was resolved, and I hope the inaccuracies that have been printed will be corrected," Gonzalez said outside state Superior Court.

The former coach was accused of taking the satchel from a Polo Ralph Lauren store at The Mall at Short Hills on June 29. Gonzalez turned himself in to police in Millburn on July 5.

Police accused Gonzalez of removing the security device from the satchel and leaving the store without paying. The Polo store manager told police that the manager of a restaurant in the mall returned the satchel after someone came into the eatery and left the bag there, according to a police report.

The shoplifting charge was punishable by up to five years in jail, according to the prosecutor's office.

Anna Cominsky, an attorney representing Gonzalez, characterized the case as a misunderstanding.

"We're very pleased with the resolution of this matter," Cominsky said Friday. "This is the type of case that doesn't warrant criminal conviction, but rather a dismissal."

Gonzalez, known for his brash, aggressive style, was fired in March after Seton Hall lost in the opening round of the NIT. He sued the school over his dismissal, claiming he was fired without cause and was owed two years of salary. The case was settled in August for undisclosed terms.

The Pirates failed to make the NCAA Tournament during Gonzalez' four years, and posted a 66-59 overall record that included a 29-45 mark in the Big East. Before that, he led Manhattan to four 20-win seasons and two NCAA tournaments in seven years.

Gonzalez didn't talk Friday about his future plans or whether he was interested in returning to coaching.

Seton Hall officials referred to off-court problems under Gonzalez when they announced his firing.

Guard Keon Lawrence was suspended for the first eight games last season after being arrested for allegedly driving the wrong way on a highway and seriously injuring another motorist.

Forward Robert Mitchell, kicked off the team by Gonzalez before the team's NIT game, and former player Kelly Whitney were charged with robbing several students at gunpoint later the same week. Mitchell pleaded guilty in October.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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