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Spotsy coach facing felony

October 19, 2012 12:10 am

By PAMELA GOULD

The volunteer assistant football coach accused of kicking a Ni River Middle School seventh-grader during Tuesday's football practice was charged with a felony Thursday.

Joseph Bernard Hart, 21, of Spotsylvania was charged with felony cruelty and injuries to children and faces up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted, according to Spotsylvania Sheriff's Capt. Mike Harvey.

Hart has voluntarily resigned from the team. The Spotsylvania school division has banned Hart from coming onto the grounds of any county school, schools spokeswoman Rene Daniels said Thursday.

Hart told school officials he was resigning as coach as they prepared to dismiss him during the joint police-school investigation on Wednesday, Daniels said.

School officials said this was his first year coaching.

Football practice was canceled on Wednesday as a result of the investigation.

Also on Thursday, the Sheriff's Office charged Maurice Smith, 43, with assault and battery of the coach, Harvey said.

Smith is the father of the 12-year-old who was kicked and injured. Smith allegedly punched the coach on Tuesday after learning what had happened to his son, Harvey said.

Assault and battery is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Hart and Smith both turned themselves in to authorities on Thursday. Both were released on bond, Harvey said. Court dates were not available.

According to the family, Smith's son weighs 90 pounds, stands 5 feet, 4 inches and was on the sidelines during practice on Tuesday when Hart kicked him.

The boy blacked out briefly after he landed on the ground. No school official rendered any medical assistance, the family has said.

The boy's parents took him to a local emergency room for treatment, and he has stayed home from school since then to heal.

The division failed to conduct a criminal background check on Hart before allowing him to coach as is required by division policy, Daniels said after inquiries by The Free Lance-Star.

A check by the newspaper of court records for Spotsylvania, Stafford, Caroline and King George counties and the city of Fredericksburg found no adult criminal charges for Hart.

Daniels said the division's Human Resources Department erroneously told Ni River administrators that the check had been completed.

Spotsylvania Superintendent Scott Baker has now requested an outside review of the Human Resources Department to determine whether other background checks have gone undone, she said.

By school policy, anyone who applies to volunteer at a county school must be fingerprinted and undergo the background check.

Hart has held other volunteer positions in the county. He served as a volunteer firefighter with the Spotsylvania Volunteer Fire Department from March 2011 through August of this year and for an undetermined amount of time with the Chancellor department, county Fire Chief Chris Eudailey said. He left as a volunteer in good standing, Eudailey said.

In August, Hart began his application to be a volunteer in Stafford County but did not finish the process, county spokeswoman Cathy Vollbrecht said.

Baker issued the following statement regarding the failure of his Human Resources Department.

"As the new Superintendent of Spotsylvania County Schools, I view this error as unacceptable and not consistent with our number one priority: student safety and well-being."

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
Email: pgould@freelancestar.com





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