September 28, 2012

Ex-Messalonskee football coach's lawyer casts doubt on assault charge

Littlefield was charged with assault after Sept. 19 football practice incident

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- The incident that led to an assault charge against a Messalonskee High School football coach was described by his attorney as ordinary contact between a coach and his players.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans Messalonskee High School head football coach, Wes Littlefield on the sidelines against Cony High School at Messalonskee High School in Oakland.

Wes Littlefield initiated contact with a player's facemask, but the contact was not unusual for Littlefield or many other coaches in high school football, attorney Jason Jabar said Friday.

"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 at the school Sept. 20.

Littlefield was charged with assault Tuesday by police after an investigation into the incident, which took place on the field during a 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 were not returned.

Jabar said famously temperamental former Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi "would be rolling around in his grave if these charges are allowed to move forward."

Jabar said that it is 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 football head coach Jonathan Michaeles said that the issue of contact between a coach and his players is discussed with every football coach at Colby, every year.

During the sessions, coaches are told not to touch players in anger, he said.

Michaeles said that it can be difficult to define the kind of contact that is appropriate and that he didn't know enough about the Littlefield incident to have an opinion about 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."

Acting District Attorney Alan Kelley said that prosecutors will review the evidence, including witness statements, gathered by police and decide whether the assault charge is appropriate.

If prosecutors do decide to move forward, the case will be heard in Waterville District Court on Nov. 20.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287

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