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Seton Hall ex-coach Gonzalez pleads not guilty

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Former Seton Hall basketball coach Bobby Gonzalez pleaded not guilty Wednesday to shoplifting a satchel at an upscale shopping mall last month.

Gonzalez spoke during the five-minute arraignment only to verify his address in Harrison, N.Y. His attorney, Anna Cominsky, entered the plea on his behalf. Neither commented after the proceeding.

Gonzalez is accused of taking a satchel worth about $1,400 from the Polo Ralph Lauren store in The Mall at Short Hills on June 29. Police said he removed the sensor device from the satchel and walked out of the store without paying for it.

According to a police report, the Polo store manager reported that the manager of a restaurant in the mall returned the satchel. The restaurant manager said someone had come into the eatery, left the satchel with the hostess and never returned.

Gonzalez faces criminal mischief and shoplifting charges; the shoplifting charge is punishable by up to five years in jail, according to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office. Gonzalez surrendered to police in Millburn on July 5 and has not had to post bail.

Municipal Court Judge Amilkar Velez-Lopez scheduled Gonzalez' next court appearance for Aug. 27.

Gonzalez, known for his brash, aggressive style, was fired in March after Seton Hall lost in the opening round of the NIT. He sued the school over his dismissal, claiming he was fired without cause and was owed two years of salary. The case is making its way through the federal court system.

The Pirates failed to make the NCAA Tournament during Gonzalez' four years, and posted a 66-59 overall record that included a 29-45 mark in the Big East.

School officials referred to several off-court problems when they announced the firing.

Guard Keon Lawrence was suspended for the first eight games last season after being arrested for allegedly driving the wrong way on a highway and seriously injuring another motorist.

Forward Robert Mitchell, kicked off the team by Gonzalez before the team's NIT game, was charged with former player Kelly Whitney with robbing several students at gunpoint later the same week. Both men are awaiting trial.

During the team's 87-69 loss to Texas Tech in the NIT, forward Herb Pope was ejected for punching an opposing player below the belt.

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