Hope he is wearing a helmet, because the balls are gonna start flying.
T-ball coach rejects plea agreement in disabled beaning
UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) A T-ball coach charged with offering a player $25 to bean a disabled teammate refused a plea agreement and will instead stand trial in May.
On Thursday, Mark R. Downs Jr., 27, of Dunbar, refused to plead guilty to criminal solicitation to commit assault and other crimes.
Fayette County District Attorney Nancy Vernon wanted to let a judge decide what sentence Downs would receive. But Downs' attorney contends his client did nothing wrong and said he would take his chances at trial in a case that has drawn the attention of TV news magazines and sports columnists across the country.
"This trial is going to be a circus," defense attorney Thomas Shaffer said. "I spent $850 on my cellphone bill" answering phone calls from the media and others.
Prosecutors contend Downs did not want 9-year-old Harry Bowers Jr. to play because the boy isn't as talented as other players, and is mildly mentally retarded and autistic.
Another player, Keith Reese, testified at a preliminary hearing that he threw balls that hit Bowers in the groin and the ear before a June 27 playoff game, because Downs offered him $25 to make sure Bowers wouldn't be able to play.
"He told me if I would hit Harry in the face, he would pay me $25," Reese testified in July. After the first throw, Downs "told me to go out there and hit him harder. So I went out and hit him in the ear," Reese testified.
Shaffer contends Downs made a joking remark about paying players to hit an umpire with a ball, and that was misinterpreted.
The team is part of the R.W. Clark Youth Baseball League. The game was in North Union Township, 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
League officials investigated and said they couldn't confirm that Downs did anything wrong, although Downs won't be allowed to coach again if he is convicted of criminal charges.