Mother recounts how Mater Dei football players allegedly beat her son
As Mary Hall recently read about an alleged Mater Dei High School football program hazing incident earlier this year that left one player with a traumatic brain injury and broken nose, her family’s own nightmare came flashing back.
“It brought it all back,” Hall said.
Chase Hall, Mary’s son and a Mater Dei basketball player, allegedly was attacked and beaten by two Mater Dei football players as he left a gathering in Irvine shortly after midnight on May 5, 2019, according to police reports obtained by the Orange County Register.
Chase Hall required surgery to repair his broken jaw.
“I’ll never forget what the surgeon said,” Mary Hall said while discussing the punch that broke her son’s jaw.
She choked up and for a moment was unable to speak.
“He said if it had been a quarter-inch higher,” she finally continued, “he would have been gone.
“He would be dead.”
Hall spoke a week after a Register report detailed how a current Mater Dei football player punched a teammate, 50 pounds lighter than him, three times in the face during an alleged hazing ritual called “Bodies” on Feb. 4 while other Monarchs players shouted racial epithets at the smaller player, according to two videos of the altercation obtained by the Register.
The altercation has garnered national attention as Mater Dei, ranked No. 1 nationally, prepares to meet Serra of San Mateo in the CIF State Open Division championship next Saturday. The incident has also prompted calls for the firing of longtime Mater Dei head football coach Bruce Rollinson and the school’s principal Frances Clare.
“What does it take for this to stop?” Mary Hall said. “This should be a wake-up call for this coach to do something” about the culture in the Mater Dei program.
The Hall family filed suit in Orange County Superior Court this past May 5 against an All-County linebacker for Mater Dei (Player 1), a senior Monarch lineman who had received a scholarship offer to play at a Pac-12 school (Player 2), and a classmate alleging assault, battery, negligence, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment. The suit continues to proceed through the court.
Player 1 was not suspended or expelled from Mater Dei, although under the school’s guidelines he could have been. Mary Hall said Clare and other Mater Dei administrators were unresponsive to their concerns.
“(Clare) wouldn’t do anything,” Hall said. “Football players get away with everything because Mater Dei wants that CIF championship.”
In an email to the Register, Father Walter Jenkins, the Mater Dei president wrote, “I will immediately look into the matter you describe. Since it was long before I arrived as MD President on July 1, 2021, I would not have immediate knowledge of the matter you are inquiring about in your email. Although I can not discuss the discipline of students, as protected by state and federal law, I will look into the matter as how it relates to our football program and our program of student accountability and safety.”
Rollinson did not respond to a request for comment. Mater Dei basketball coach Gary McKnight also did not respond to a request for comment.
The Register is not naming the players because they were minors at the time of the alleged altercation. Mary Hall agreed to have her family’s name used.
In the Feb. 4, 2021 incident in the Mater Dei locker room, the Santa Ana Police Department recommended the larger player be prosecuted for felony battery, according to a police report. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office does not intend to file charges in the case. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said last week the altercation does not meet the legal standards for criminal “hazing” or felony assault, but he is willing to consider additional evidence.
The smaller player’s family filed a lawsuit against Mater Dei High School and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in Orange County Superior Court on Nov. 23.
In the earlier situation, Chase Hall was at a gathering at a private home in Irvine when he was confronted by the classmate after 11 p.m. on May 4, 2019, according to police reports and court filings.
The classmate had been in a fight with another student two or three months earlier and accused Hall of sharing a video of the altercation and “talking poorly” about the classmate, according to an Irvine Police Department report. Hall allowed the classmate to go through his cell phone “so he could see that he was not hiding anything” according to the report.
Hall was told by a friend that his Uber had arrived around 12:13 a.m. Hall told the police that he left the house “and was about down the driveway when he was punched from behind by (Player 1) on the right side of his face said he fell down and was punched a second time by (Player 2) on the left side of his face,” according to a police report.
Hall was 6-foot, 180 pounds at the time of the incident. Player 1 was 5-11, 200 pounds, according to a recruiting service bio that described him as “one of the most dynamic defensive players in the 2020 recruiting class…He really can do it all.” Player 2 was 6-5, 298 pounds, according to recruiting services.
Hall also told police that Player 1 and Player 2 “punched him with their fists and no weapons were involved.”
Hall’s account was supported by two eyewitnesses, according to police reports. One witness said he exited the Uber to help Hall and “keep (Player 1) away” when Hall was punched by Player 2 “while (Hall) was regaining his balance.”
Another eyewitness told police he saw Player 1 punch Hall twice in the back of the head.
Irvine PD also obtained video from a surveillance camera from a home on the street of the altercation. After reviewing the video an Irvine PD officer wrote he “witnessed (Player 1) walk up behind Hall and punch Hall in the head area. Hall falls to the ground and is helped into waiting Uber.”
The Irvine PD officer concluded “this incident stemmed from a previous fight involving (the classmate)” and another student and (the classmate) “was upset over an apparent video sharing of the fight and confronted Hall who he suspected was spreading it. The classmate brought (Player 1) and (Player 2) with him as intimidation to confront Hall … a result of the confrontation, Hall was physically assaulted by (Player 1) …which resulted in a broken jaw.
“lt is my opinion a violation of CPC 243(D) aggravated assault occurred. Additionally, (criminal conspiracy) should be considered as it appears as though (the classmate, Player 1, Player 2) arrived at the location for the sole purpose of confronting (Hall) and assaulting him.”
Juvenile proceedings are sealed. David M. Nisson, an attorney for Player 1 and Player 2, declined to discuss the outcome of the criminal cases because his clients were juveniles at the time of the altercation. Mary Hall attended the hearings and said Player 1 and Player 2 were given probation.
Player 1 and Player 2 denied all allegations in a court filing in the civil suit or that Hall suffered injuries as a result of their actions. The players said their actions in the altercation were a case of “justifiable self-defense” as they were “threatened by a mob crowd directed by Hall” according to the filing.
“Direct involvement as principal or accessory in any crime, including a non-violent felony, a misdemeanor, or multiple misdemeanors, or where a student arrest or arraignment takes place” is a Level III violation of the Mater Dei student handbook. A Level III violation can result in the “Suspension from school for an extended period of time” or “Withdrawal or expulsion.”
Player 1 was allowed to attend Mater Dei in the fall of 2019, according to emails from Mater Dei administrators obtained by the Register. He sat out the first five games of the 2019 season. Mater Dei would not disclose the reason for his absence.
Doctors, meanwhile, are recommending Chase Hall undergo additional surgery to repair damage done during the alleged attack. He missed exams because of his injuries. He stopped attending functions at Mater Dei out of fear for his safety, his mother said. He was unable to eat for weeks.
“He couldn’t even use a straw,” Mary Hall said.