Just before the recent Deerfield Beach Bison game against the Pompano Beach 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, Lawson said his coach, Darron Bostic, risked her son's life. She said he ordered her son Jerome to take the powerful laxative magnesium citrate, eat only vegetables, fruits and water, 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, who was 15, said he heard the same thing from his teammates.
"We were talking about it while we were getting dressed," Jerome said.
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.
"While I'm driving on I-95 all I could do was cry, because I couldn't help him I couldn't do anything to take away the pain," Lawson said."The doctor told me if I would have even tried to even make it home he would have died in the back of your car."
Doctors transferred him to Broward General Hospital'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 charged Bostic and eight others on an investigation sparked by an ESPN "Outside the Lines" broadcast about youth football gambling in South Florida. The charges against the defendants was 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 crack cocaine dealing 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 Bison youth football program, which was voted in by the Deerfield Beach commission 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.
"We are hearing there was rampant use of magnesium citrate," Norton said. "We've heard there was gambling of five figures -- over $10,000 to $20000 -- for big games and we've heard there were abuses of telling kids to go on crash diets."
Deerfield Beach Mayor Bill Ganz said Bostic passed the city's Level Two background check despite the arrest record, because he wasn't convicted of the bookmaking or the crack cocaine charges.
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 and challenged Local 10 to find a city that would have restricted Bostic from coaching. The City of Pembroke Pines in fact has a policy restricting coaches from its league if it has certain arrests -- including those involving violence and narcotics -- regardless of conviction. Bostic would not have passed that background test and would have had to have entered 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.
"This cannot go on," he said.
Bostic has denied wrongdoing. Tomorrow, in the third and final installment of this series, you can see what he has to say -- and you might be surprised where investigative reporter Bob Norman managed to find the coach.
Local 10 News' Andrea Torres contributed to this story.