DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. – Just before the recent Deerfield Beach Bisons game against the Pompano Chiefs, Ebony Lawson was worried about her teenage son. She said she noticed his sharp cheekbones and jaw. His cold, sweaty skin looked muggy.
To make the 160-pound weight limit to play in the game, Jerome Neal said his coach, Darron Bostic, gave him the powerful laxative magnesium citrate and told him to eat only vegetables, fruits and water, and to work out in the evenings after practice.
Lawson said Bostic gave Jerome, who was 15, four bottles of magnesium citrate to hasten the process. During the game, she learned there was a $20,000 bet wagered on the game. Jerome said he heard the same thing from his teammates.
After the game, Lawson said Jerome was staggering. When he sat down, both arms and both legs locked up with powerful cramps and he started curling. She said she thought he was having a stroke, so she rushed him to North Broward Medical Center.
Jerome was crying and screaming.
Doctors transferred him to Broward Health Medical Center's pediatric unit, where Lawson said a physician told her the magnesium citrate had caused enzymes in his stomach to break down, causing serious kidney damage and risking kidney failure. Jerome was in the hospital for three days.
Lawson said she then learned of Bostic's past. He was charged with cocaine dealing in 2015 and was arrested for allegedly gambling on youth football in 2012.
The Broward Sheriff's Office arrested Bostic and eight others after an investigation sparked by an ESPN "Outside the Lines" broadcast about youth football gambling in South Florida. The charges against the defendants were later dropped after the defense demanded the identity of a confidential informant at the heart of the case.
The charges in the 2015 cocaine case were also declined by the state attorney's office. It was the second time charges filed against Bostic were dropped. His past, according to prosecutors, includes a conviction for misdemeanor battery, and Bostic pleaded no contest to a felony charge for aggressively fleeing police officers. Prosecutors also alleged Bostic was a documented gang member.
Despite that record, the city of Deerfield Beach allowed Bostic to coach in the Bisons youth football program, which was approved by commissioners last year and awarded $45,000 in taxpayers funding.
The family's attorney, Donald Norton, said he is planning to file a lawsuit against the city and team in the case, alleging that Bostic's history should have kept him off the field.
Deerfield Beach Mayor Bill Ganz said Bostic passed the city's background check despite the arrest record.
"If the charges had been dropped, our hands -- we're handcuffed," the mayor said.
Ganz said the city wasn't the "judge and jury" and he retained confidence in Stockar McDougle, the former NFL player who runs the program and allowed Bostic to coach in his league.
"If they are approved, then they have the ability to come out and work with the kids," said McDougle, who claimed he wasn't aware of Bostic's arrest record and refused to answer further questions.
Ganz claimed his city had as stringent a youth football screening policy as any in Broward County and challenged Local 10 News to find a city that would have restricted Bostic from coaching.
"What city allows for someone that has not been convicted of a crime that has been charged with a crime that will ban them from coaching?" Ganz said. "Can you tell me a city that does that?"
The city of Pembroke Pines, in fact, has a policy restricting coaches from its league if they have certain arrests -- including those involving violence and narcotics -- regardless of conviction. Bostic would not have passed that background test and would have had to enter an appeals process to have any hope of getting on the field.
Norton said his client's case should be a "wake-up call" for football leagues across the country.
Bostic has denied wrongdoing.
In the third and final installment of this series Thursday, you can see what he has to say, and you might be surprised where investigative reporter Bob Norman managed to find the coach.