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Thursday
Jan132011

Court Bars 'Fight Club' Video of Mentally Disabled Students Forced to Fight

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) -- Prosecutors who are trying a former state school worker for allegedly forcing mentally disabled students fight each other won't be allowed to show the jury an explicit cell phone video of defendant Timothy Dixon allegedly forcing the students to fight.

Numerous videos show confused residents of a state school for mentally disabled adults in Corpus Christi, Texas being forced to take part in a so-called fight club run by night shift workers. As previously reported by ABC News, the videos were discovered by police in March 2009 after someone found Timothy Dixon's cell phone and turned it in. Police said Dixon, now 32, could be heard on a video calling the play-by-play of the fight as if he were a ring announcer.

But the Texas Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision that the evidence could not be used at the trial of Dixon, the alleged ringleader of the Fight Club, because police did not have the right to search the phone after it had been turned in. On Wednesday, the court refused to hear prosecutors' appeal of its decision.

"I understand it's an unpopular decision but according to the law it is the right decision," said Dixon's attorney, Ira Miller.

Dixon will remain free on bail while the case goes back to the district court. Charged with causing injury to the mentally disabled, he has pled not guilty.

Five other former Corpus Christi State School employees were charged in the case. D 'Angelo Riley, 24, and Guadalupe De Larosa, 23, pleaded guilty to three counts of causing injury to mentally disabled residents and are serving a four-year prison sentence. Jesse Salazar, 23, was sentenced to three years in jail, while Vincent Johnson, 24, received a two-year suspended jail sentence. Stephanie Garza, 23, was also implicated in the case but was granted immunity by the State. Charges against her will be dismissed if she fulfills her obligation to testify against Dixon.

Despite Wednesday's decision, prosecutors remain optimistic they have enough evidence to convict Dixon without the video evidence.

"This decision doesn't kill the case," said Doug Mann, Assistant District Attorney. "I would prefer to have the cell phone video played to our jury, but the direct testimony of the people who were present can vividly convey to the jury what was going on there and the fact that Dixon was the driving force behind it."

Michelle Crayton, whose brother George Brazil was one of the victims in the video, said she was disappointed in the Court of Criminal Appeals ruling. "I was hoping the video could be shown at his trial," said Crayton. "But even without the video it's a strong case because so many people have already seen them and saw that he was involved."

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