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Man who struck referee at wrestling match gets probation

Published April 02. 2019 12:52PM

A Lancaster County man, who struck a referee at a wrestling match at Panther Valley High School earlier this year, was placed on probation for two years on Friday after pleading guilty in Carbon County court.

David M. Coleman, 37, of Mountville, pleaded to one count of assault on an official, a misdemeanor. In exchange for the pleas, the district attorney’s office agreed to drop charges of simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct.

Summit Hill police, whose jurisdiction includes the school, said Coleman hit a PIAA official twice while the official was refereeing a match involving Coleman’s son.

Coleman walked onto the mat during the match and told the referee “you need to be in position.” The referee told Coleman to leave the mat, but he responded by striking the official twice with a closed fist — in the chest and jaw.

Coleman told police that during the match he became concerned the other wrestler had his son’s arm in a position where it could be broken. He allegedly went to the mat to tell the official, “You need to be in position.”

Defense attorney Matthew J. Rapa said Coleman had no prior contacts with the law and his actions the day of the incident, Jan. 5, were “out of character” for him. He said Coleman took responsibility for his actions immediately and entered into a plea agreement at the preliminary hearing stage of the case.

Coleman told President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II, “I apologize for my actions. It was out of character for me.”

Rapa interjected that Coleman has been dealing with mental health issues, specifically depression.

The victim told the court, “As officials we’re expected to have good days, every day.”

He said there is a shortage of officials and this type of incident is what is happening more and more in sports.

Nanovic said the victim showed great restraint in not responding to the punches thrown at him by Coleman.

He added, “This is completely inexcusable conduct.”

In addition to the probation term, Coleman was ordered to pay a fine of $500, get a drug and alcohol evaluation and follow any recommendation for treatment, attend and successfully complete an anger management course (which he has already begun) and render 20 hours of community service.

He is banned from all PIAA sanction events for a year, banned from entering onto property of the Panther Valley School District for three years, and ordered to pay court costs of about $1,000 and pay a $50 per month supervision fee while on probation.

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