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Police drop inquiry into Peters coach

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By Adam Brandolph
Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012

Police on Wednesday dropped their investigation into allegations that the Peters Township High School varsity football coach put injured players back into games.

"We haven't found anything new that warrants investigation," Peters police Chief Harry Fruecht said during a news conference. "We're done with it."

The investigation began last week after Washington County Children and Youth Services received an anonymous tip that Richard Piccinini forced students -- some with concussions or concussion-like symptoms -- to go back into games. CYS turned the information over to police.

Fruecht said his department spoke with one parent, six students, the high school athletics director and a physical therapist employed by the district. The police investigation followed a district inquiry that also found no evidence to support claims against the coach by physical therapist and trainer Mark Mortland, who has provided services to the district since 2003.

Piccinini, 43, of Green Tree denied the allegations. He referred calls to his lawyer, Robert Del Greco, who said he was not surprised by the chief's decision.

"This investigation followed an exhaustive investigation -- by a principal, a superintendent and an athletic director -- with a much lower standard (for proof)," Del Greco said. "When a school district does an investigation and comes back with that conclusion, I was somewhat optimistic the police would come back with the same conclusion. Both (Piccinini) and I are delighted and relieved. Also, it helps to be factually innocent."

Del Greco said Piccinini is exploring a defamation suit against Mortland, who said he would welcome it.

"If that's the case, I would be very happy," Mortland said. "This would go to court and people would be under oath and the truth would come out."

District Superintendent Nina Zetty said she hoped the closure of the police investigation would put to rest further accusations.

"We know this has been a very difficult time for Coach Piccinini and the district offers its continued support to him and his team in moving this program forward," Zetty said.

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