Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling firstname.lastname@example.org
WATERVILLE — The district attorney announced Monday he wouldn’t file a criminal assault charge against former high school football coach Wes Littlefield.
“I’ve made the determination not to prosecute,” acting District Attorney Alan Kelley said.
In an earlier statement, Kelley said “criminal assault charges are not supported by the evidence under current Maine law.”
That statement Monday also said that the office “does not condone the alleged conduct” of the former Messalonskee High School head football coach.
Littlefield said that the decision would allow him to move on with his life.
He said that the charges haven’t affected his personal relationships with students and parents.
“The people who know me knew to stand by me,” he said.
The Oakland Police Department charged Littlefield with assault following a Messalonskee High School football practice on Sept. 19.
Littlefield had an incident with a player on the team at practice, but attorneys for Littlefield and the family of the player have disagreed on what happened.
Both agreed that Littlefield’s hand came into contact with the player’s helmet. Littlefield’s attorney, Jason Jabar, described it as normal, while the player’s attorney, Walter McKee, described it as a huge force.
Littlefield, who said afterwards that it was “a little incident with a kid that was blown out of proportion,” said Monday that the allegations made by the player’s attorney were outlandish.
“People who know me know that I obviously wouldn’t do anything to harm the kids,” he said.
The mother of the player involved referred questions to McKee, who was out of the office and unavailable for comment Monday.
Littlefield said he harbors no ill will toward the players.
“I wish nothing but the best for the kids that were involved in that whole thing this year,” he said. “I hope now they can put their season to rest and move on, as I have.”
Littlefield resigned as head coach Sept. 20 and was summoned by Oakland police on Sept. 25.
Littlefield said he wouldn’t seek his old coaching position at the Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18, where he coached for 12 years.
“I am completely done with RSU 18,” he said. “I’m hoping to move my career on to another high school, either locally or a elsewhere in the state.” Besides Oakland, the district includes China, Belgrade, Sidney and Rome.
Littlefield said that the allegations were made in the context of a rocky relationship with the school.
“Before football season even started, I was fighting for my job in July,” he said. He said anonymous critics complained about him to school officials.
The charge was brought by the Oakland police department, but the district attorney’s office would have needed to file the charges in Waterville District Court for the case to proceed. The decision not to prosecute effectively ends the case.
In announcing the decision, Kelley cited a 2000 decision of Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court that reversed assault charges against Lawrence Wilder, who bruised his nine-year-old son while grabbing him and telling him to shut up.
Jabar said that the case was relevant because it shows that a limited amount of force may legally be used by a teacher or coach in the context of a teaching or coaching relationship.
Jabar said that the police should have consulted with the district attorney before issuing the summons. He also said that coaches across the state should be relieved at the outcome.
“If the prosecution would have gone forward it would have sent a scary message,” he said.
Kelley said it is theoretically possible that new evidence would cause the office to revisit the decision.
“A declination of prosecution is never final until the statute of limitations is run,” which he said is a period of three years.
However, he said he did not anticipate new relevant evidence in this case.
“The Oakland police department did an extensive, thorough investigation,” he said. “I don’t foresee there being new information being brought forward. That’s the end of the case.”
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287