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Case dismissed against Utah football coach accused of assaulting young player

Published June 7, 2013 4:00 pm

Courts • Inconsistencies cited in 2012 sideline incident; Mapleton man happy with outcome.
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Charges against a Mapleton Little League Football coach accused of injuring a 13-year-old player during a sideline collision last October have been dismissed.

Nathan K. Harris, 39, of Mapleton, was charged in Utah County's 4th District Court with one count of assault, a class A misdemeanor.

But Thursday, 4th District Judge Donald Eyre dismissed the charge with prejudice, meaning charges can't be refiled against Harris in this case. The Payson City Attorney's office filed the charge against the coach in November.

Harris told The Salt Lake Tribune last fall that the Oct. 6 incident was an accident that occurred when one player knocked another out of bounds and straight into his chest. Harris said he put up his arms to protect himself from the player.

Harris was acting as assistant coach during his son's Maple Mountaineers game against the Payson team. The two teams were tied when a Payson running back began moving the ball to the end zone for what would have been a tie-breaking touchdown. As the boy ran close against the field's boundary lines, authorities allege Harris stepped into the boy's path and raised his forearms, hitting the boy under the chin. Charging document said the teen suffered a concussion from the hit.

Harris said Friday he is happy with the outcome, but said it hasn't quite sunk in yet. He's spent months worrying about the case, he said, which ended with a text from his lawyer saying it was dismissed — a rather anti-climatic end, he said.

"Over the next few days, and months, there will be a residual peace that comes," he said.

Harris said the case has been a challenge for him. There have been a few awkward business situations, he said, and paying for his legal defense has taken a toll on his family. He said his daughter has had some separation anxiety since he spent a night in the Utah County jail in October.

"That night in jail,I had a lot of time to think," he said. "I was feeling that I knew that I hadn't done anything wrong, and I didn't know how, but I hoped the evidence would come out. And it did."

Defense attorney Rhome Zabriskie said Friday that his office was given video footage that shows the boy who collided with Harris continued to play in the game after the collision, indicating he was not concussed, as charging documents alleged.

Zabriskie said this and other inconsistencies led to the charges being dismissed Thursday, just a week before the case was supposed to go to trial.

Harris said he hopes that what happened to him doesn't deter other parents from volunteering with their childrens' activities.

"I think if anything, it should give people the sense of 'He came out OK, we should be OK to coach,' " he said.

The man said he isn't sure if his older son wants to play football this year, so he doesn't know if he'll be coaching again. But his younger son, he said, is anxious to get on the football field.

"If it comes up, yeah, I'll help coach," he said.


Twitter: @jm_miller




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