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ISU Asst. Coach Ortiz Says Police Allegation Is False



Thom Ortiz, an Iowa State University assistant wrestling coach, is facing criminal charges for what he says is nothing more than trying to be a good coach. He was charged with interference with an official act Thursday and spent several hours in Ames City Jail waiting to be released after police say he "pushed past" an officer and refused to stay in one room while they searched his house for drugs. Officers of the Central Iowa Drug Task Force conducted the search after they say they seized $10,000 worth of marijuana being delivered to Ortiz's house at 4404 Todd Drive as part on an investigation into fugitive and former Iowa State wrestler Alfonzo Cruz. "Parents trust me with their kids," Ortiz said. "And I'd help anyone that wants to help themselves. That's partly why I'm in the predicament I'm in." Ortiz said he did not know that Cruz was wanted and was letting him stay at his house while trying to help him turn his life around by kicking a drug habit. Two drifters, 22-year-old Garrison Allaire and 20-year-old Barbara Moranville, were arrested Thursday for delivery of marijuana, interference with police, violation of the Iowa drug tax stamp law and prohibited drug acts for allegedly bringing the marijuana to Ortiz's Ames house, police said. "The search warrant makes it clear, word for word, that I am not involved in any illegal or drug-related activity," Ortiz said. A copy of the search warrant provided by Ortiz names only Cruz. Police did not specify to whom the drugs were being delivered, but have not accused Ortiz. Ortiz is considered one of the up-and-comers of wrestling. He was one of four finalists for the head coach's job at the University of Northern Iowa and has been considered likely to land a position as a head wrestling coach. Cruz had been staying at the Ortiz house in exchange for working to fix it up for sale, while Ortiz and his wife and daughter lived in another house in Des Moines. Ortiz estimated he only stayed at the Ames house about once per week for the last month and a half. No drug related charges have been filed against Ortiz, although police did say they are still investigating the case. Ortiz said he has not seen Cruz since Thursday morning. Cruz is wanted on cocaine and marijuana-related charges in Arizona and Nevada, according to Ames police. Police said no drugs were seized from the Ortiz house, but Ortiz says they did take some cooking herbs from his kitchen. Ortiz spoke at his home Friday night where he showed the disarray left by the police search. He said he is currently planning to sell the home and move to Des Moines where his wife works. Ortiz said that he was letting Cruz stay at his house to get back on his feet and go through rehab after spending time in an Iowa jail. "I agreed that he could stay here on one condition" Ortiz said. "That he try to change his life and go through rehab, which he was doing." Initial reaction from Iowa State's athletic department was noncommittal. Neither Elaine Hieber, the interim athletic director, nor Bobby Douglas, the head wrestling coach, could be directly reached for comment. In written statements released by the athletic department both said they are still trying to gather information. "While we are in the fact-finding process, Thom's job responsibilities have been modified," Hieber's statement reads. "I want to stress that Thom has been very cooperative as we work to get additional information. Thus, we don't want to comment further until we have sufficient information." Ortiz said he has nothing to hide and only wants to clear his name. He called the charges by police a lie. "This allegation that I interfered with police is false," he said, reading from a prepared statement. "I look forward to clearing my name and comparing what my conduct was to theirs." He said he never touched a police officer. And he said it's not true that he was told to stay in one room but did not. A sworn affidavit by Ames police officer Howard Snider, a task force member, says that Ortiz was told three times to stay where he was and that he "pushed past" Snider before Snider grabbed him and arrested him.
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