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Coach freed, father jailed page 2
Judge reduces charge against Spotsylvania coach to misdemeanor; Ni River football player's father jailed for punching coach after he 'drop-kicked' 12-year-old boy

Date published: 1/31/2013


"He felt like he had barely tapped him," she testified.

Hart was to be dismissed as a coach after the incident but quit on Oct. 17. The school division then barred him from coming onto any county school property.

Wilderness Elementary teacher Jennifer Knutsson testified that she had driven to Ni River to pick up her son from football practice when she saw Maurice Smith arrive back at school.

Hart was sitting on the curb at an open parking space when Smith approached him angrily, she said.

"He punched him and pushed him on the ground," she said.

She said the two were chest to chest for a while and that Hart then went to Smith's car, where Devon was sitting, and Smith followed him, still agitated.

Hart testified that when Smith first approached, he didn't know who he was or why he was upset.

He later went toward the car to apologize to Devon.

Bowers argued that Hart "willfully endangered [Devon's] life" and that "the blow" from the kick was "severe."

He called it "a serious assault" that "is felonious" and suggested Hart receive jail time, but something less than two months to serve.

"The court's decision today will send the message to the community about the responsibility of teachers and coaches for the children in their charge," Bowers said.

Gardner argued for leniency, saying that Hart had attention deficit disorder, poor impulse control and "probably shouldn't have been in that position" as a coach.

He also noted that a felony conviction would prevent him from his lifelong goal of becoming a firefighter.

His father, William E. "Chip" Hart, is chief of the county's emergency management division. He was present in court.

Fines reduced the charge to misdemeanor assault and battery and gave Hart a 10-day suspended sentence. He also ordered 30 hours of community service to be completed by April 30 in a field other than fire and rescue.

Maurice Smith pleaded no contest to assault and battery, and despite arguments from defense attorney Vernon Keeve and prosecutor Bowers to have the disposition delayed, Fines found him guilty.

He then sentenced him to 10 days in jail with one day to serve plus 30 hours of community service to be completed by April 30.

Smith is appealing the conviction and was to be released pending appeal.

His wife, Stephanie Smith, called the outcome an injustice. She also said her son has lost weight since the incident, his grades have fallen, he can't sleep and he is in counseling.

She said the family's insurance won't pay his medical bills because the injuries were the result of a crime.

Bowers said he wanted Hart to pay restitution but the judge wouldn't order it because Bowers hadn't prepared evidence.

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

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