After a mob of students piled on top of him at a Bakersfield High School pep rally in 2010, former student Mitch Carter was led to a stairwell, where he sat on the floor and a school official gave him a stack of napkins to soak up his blood, he testified Thursday.
In dramatic testimony Thursday in Kern County Superior Court, Carter slumped against a wall and slid to the ground, just as he said he had six years earlier when BHS Activities Director Anna Lovan led him to the stairwell.
“She looks at me and gives me those brown rags … those towels, she like throws them down and says, ‘I’ll be back, I’m going to finish the rally,’ then leaves me,’” Carter testified. “I’m by myself, bloody in the stairwell.”
At that moment, Carter said, he experienced “worst headache” he’d ever had. He was in the stairwell for fewer than 10 minutes, his attorneys said.
“There’s a lot of memories I don’t remember that day,” Carter said.
This wasn’t one of them. Carter and Lovan haven’t spoken since, Carter said.
Carter took the stand for more than three hours on Thursday, the fifth day of an ongoing civil trial in Kern County Superior Court. His attorneys say Kern High School District was negligent on Dec. 10, 2010, when Carter donned a chicken costume as part of a pep rally skit meant to mock a rival school’s mascot and sustained allegedly serious injuries, including brain damage.
Up until that day, Carter said, he and Lovan had a good relationship. He had never seen her angry or frustrated.
That changed, he said, when he spoke to her after getting tackled by two football players, leading, moments later, to a larger dog pile. Carter testified he didn’t want to go back out in front of the assembled student body, telling Lovan, “I’m not going back out there, end of discussion.”
“This is the first time in my four years at BHS that Anna Lovan went from being kind and being my friend to angry and saying, like, ‘you’re not going back out there?’” Carter testified. Lovan told him he’d have to pay the $75 rental fee for the chicken costume if he didn’t, he testified.
Carter testified that Lovan had an intimate knowledge of his family’s financial situation. His father had been out of work for a year and his parents had been forced to sell his childhood home.
“I didn’t have $75,” Carter said, wiping away a tear moments later. “She knows the financial situation that’s going on at my house and knew what that threat carried.”
In her testimony Wednesday, Lovan denied that portions of that alleged conversation had ever taken place. Instead, she said, Carter came up to her during the rally and said that “some random kids” had come out and “knocked the head off his suit.” She said she asked if he was OK and wanted to go back out in front of the crowd, and he said yes.
An English teacher who also testified, saying she had no idea what the trial was about, said that she remembers seeing Lovan tending to Carter after the rally.
Carter testified earlier Thursday that he didn’t think “in any circumstance” he would find himself at the bottom of a dog pile.
But after he was, he said, he began experiencing memory loss. He told attorneys scores of times that he couldn’t remember details of the day of the pep rally. He struggled to explain it on the stand, describing his memory before the incident as a two-lane road that ebbs and flows properly. But afterward, “it’s like I’m starting in the same spot, but I have to go all the way around. It’s not a straight line. It’s not succinct. I have to go all the way around and there’s blocks,” Carter said.