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Two local athletes arrested in iPod robbery

M-A football standout arrested in connection with Friday incident

The strongarm robbery of an iPod Touch from a youth who was knocked off his skateboard in the 200 block of Everett Avenue in north Palo Alto Friday evening led to the arrest of six males on suspicion of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

One of those arrested was Menlo-Atherton High football standout Vaughn Smith, 18, of Menlo Park. Smith helped lead the Bears to the 2008 Central Coast Section Large School Division title this past season.

The youth who was robbed, who was not identified by name or age, called 911 to report the robbery. He said a Pacific islander male knocked him off his skateboard at about 8:20 p.m., took his iPod Touch from his pocket and ran off on foot to enter a red van, Agent Rich Bullerjahn reported this morning. The boy was not injured and got his iPod back, he reported.

Within minutes, Officer David Pecoraro saw a van matching the description in the 100 block of Palo Alto Avenue, and six males were detained without incident -- three adults and three juveniles.

Bullerjahn said the victim positively identified the suspect at the scene. After further investigation by Palo Alto police detectives, all six males were arrested on either charges of robbery or conspiracy to commit robbery, Bullerjahn reported.

In addition to Smith, the other adults were identified as Fataituulilo Vailala, 20, of East Palo Alto; and Malakai Mataele, 18, of East Palo Alto. Mataele also played on the Menlo-Atherton football team this past season. All three were booked at the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose on charges of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

The juveniles were from East Palo Alto, Newark and Oakland, Bullerjahn reported. Two were cited and released to parents while a third was booked in Juvenile Hall in San Jose.

Menlo-Atherton interim head football coach Phillip Brown was shocked and dismayed when he heard the news from one of his own players.

"I'm a little disappointed," Brown said of Smith's arrest. "I had just talked to the Butte (Junior College) coach last week and gave him a glowing recommendation. I called three JCs in Southern California, to get him (Smith) out of here; to get him away" from bad influences.

"It's unfortunate," Brown added. "In the wrong place at the wrong time."

Smith helped top-seeded Menlo-Atherton finish the season with a 10-2-1 record, topped by a 39-33 victory over Wilcox in the CCS Large School Division championship game on Dec. 5. Smith, in that game, returned kickoffs 88 and 76 yards for touchdowns to help lead the Bears to victory.

-- Palo Alto Weekly staff

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