Tuesday, May 21, 2013
By MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Morning Sentinel
OAKLAND - The incident that led to an assault charge against a former Messalonskee High football coach was described by his lawyer Friday as ordinary contact between a coach and his players.
Wes Littlefield initiated contact with a player's facemask, but the contact wasn't unusual for Littlefield or many other high school football coaches, said the lawyer, Jason Jabar.
"It did not knock him down. It did not break the facemask. The individual was not hurt," Jabar said. "He was not injured."
Jabar said he learned about the incident from Littlefield and interviews with multiple witnesses from the team. Littlefield resigned from his coaching position Sept. 20.
Littlefield was charged with assault Tuesday after a police investigation into the incident, which took place on the field during a team practice on Sept. 19.
Police and the attorney general's office declined to release the police report containing the description of the contact, and calls to the victim's family weren't returned.
Jabar said Vince Lombardi, the famously temperamental former Green Bay Packers coach, "would be rolling around in his grave if these charges are allowed to move forward."
Jabar said it's common for coaches at the high school and college level to grab facemasks, shake players or get in the face of players in the course of instruction.
Colby College head coach Jonathan Michaeles said the issue of contact between a coach and his players is discussed with every football coach at Colby, every year.
Coaches are told not to touch players in anger, he said.
Michaeles said it can be difficult to define the kind of contact that is appropriate, and he didn't know enough about the Littlefield incident to have an opinion on whether a line had been crossed.
"It's a fine line and a case like that makes you reassess the relationship you have with your players," he said.
According to Maine's criminal code, assault occurs when "the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury or offensive physical contact to another person."
Even if the victim is not injured, the charge could stand if the physical contact was deemed to be "offensive."
Alan Kelley, the acting district attorney, said prosecutors will review the evidence, including witness statements gathered by police, and then decide whether the assault charge is appropriate.
If prosecutors do decide to move forward, the case will be heard Nov. 20 in Waterville District Court.
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287