November 20, 2012

Assault charge dropped against former coach

The prosecution says case law doesn't support criminal allegations against Wes Littlefield.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE - Former Messalonskee High School football coach Wes Littlefield won't be tried on allegations of criminal assault.

"I've made the determination not to prosecute," acting Kennebec and Somerset District Attorney Alan Kelley said, but adding that his office "does not condone the alleged conduct" of Littlefield.

In an earlier statement, Kelley said "criminal assault charges are not supported by the evidence under current Maine law."

Littlefield said that the decision would allow him to move on with his life and that the charges haven't affected his personal relationships with students and parents.

"The people who know me knew to stand by me," Littlefield said.

The Oakland Police Department charged Littlefield with assault following a Messalonskee High School practice on Sept. 19.

Littlefield had an incident with a player, but attorneys for the coach 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 afterward 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, adding 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 Oakland police, 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 9-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.

 

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