Posted: 7:36 pm Thursday, April 16th, 2009
By Jason Lieser
In the wake of the arrest of Rev. Richard Harris, a well known member of the community who frequently was around the Glades Central football team, those with ties to the school are reeling from the news.
Harris, 61, was arrested yesterday in Hillsborough County. For a full account of his alleged misdeeds, click here.
The details of the police report are far too disgusting to repeat. It says there is probable cause to charge Harris with unlawful sexual activity with a minor, lewd or lascivious battery, child abuse, showing obscene material to a minor and promoting sexual performance by a child.
To sum it up quickly, authorities say Harris promised to help football players get into college in exchange for performing sex acts on camera. He also bought cell phones and shoes for players, the report said.
“What would you do to go to college?” he asked one player, according to detectives, before persuading the player to allow Harris to perform a sex act on him.
One witness told police there have been rumors about Harris’ perversions for at least three decades. Former athletic director Jay Seider said Harris was around the program when Seider took the job in 1988.
The story has rocked the Glades area this week. Though principal Camile Coleman, football coach Jessie Hester and assistant athletic director Henry Cook have not commented on it, plenty of people have.
New England Patriots running back Fred Taylor, who played at Glades Central and the University of Florida, said Harris was always trying to latch on to young football players.
“Looking back on everything, it’s a bad feeling knowing he was around these young men,” Taylor said. “He definitely ruined some lives of some guys on this team.
“You hear little whispers around the community … but you hear a lot of rumors in a small town. To know those tapes are valid, that’s some sick stuff.”
Taylor said Harris approached him in high school, as well as Taylor’s younger brother Darnelious Jones.
“He tried to help my brother do stuff with basketball, but I grabbed my brother and snatched him away,” Taylor said.
“I had my own mind and I have never been one to even consider going down that path. It’s crazy how people can be so filthy and disgusting.”
Taylor also said Harris had in interesting way of getting access to locker rooms, both at the high school and colleges.
“Somehow, some way he always found his way into locker rooms,” Taylor said.
Two players who were on the Raiders last season, senior Byron Blake and current Pahokee junior Fred Pickett, were equally repulsed.
Blake, who signed a football scholarship with Arkansas State, described Harris as “shaky.”
“He told me he could help me, but I never listened because I always thought he was up to something,” Blake said. “I never trusted him. I’m glad I avoided him.”
Pickett, who transferred from Glades Central for personal reasons that are completely unrelated to Harris, was shocked by the extent of Harris’ alleged actions but said he was always suspicious.
“Everybody knew he was that type of person, that’s why a lot of people didn’t want to be around him,” Pickett said.
“I’m sure (coaches and school officials) knew about it. We knew about it, so I don’t know why they kept letting him come out there. They did stop him at one point in time last season.”
Former Raiders football coach Willie Bueno, who ran the team from 2000 to ’02 and worked at the school from 1994 to 2003, immediately recognized Harris’ name.
Like Pickett, Bueno was baffled by Harris’ ability to get access to school grounds.
“He would always have access into the school, and I don’t know how the school district would allow it,” said Bueno, who now coaches at American Heritage. “He definitely was a guy you didn’t want around, but sometimes you can’t control everything. He could get into the school.
“When we were there, he never was officially anything with the football team. He kind of got to the players outside of football, away from the team. We always kept him at arm’s length.”
Bueno said he was not surprised by Harris’ arrest.