Baseball coach convicted of two lesser counts
Associated Press -
UNIONTOWN, Pa. -- A baseball coach accused of offering an 8-year-old money to bean an autistic teammate so he couldn't play was convicted Thursday of two lesser charges against him, and evaded more serious charges.
A jury convicted 29-year-old Mark R. Downs Jr. of corruption of minors and criminal solicitation to commit simple assault, Fayette County authorities said.
Downs was acquitted of criminal solicitation to commit aggravated assault, and jurors said they were deadlocked on a charge of reckless endangerment. The judge declared a mistrial on the endangerment charge.
Authorities said Downs offered to pay one of his T-ball players $25 to hit a 9-year-old autistic teammate with a ball while warming up before a June 2005 playoff game.
Downs took the stand and denied offering to pay Keith Reese Jr. to hurt Harry Bowers, his mildly autistic and mildly retarded teammate.
Reese's father, Keith Sr., testified that Downs acknowledged after the game that he did something "ignorant" and confessed to the deed. When Downs called the elder Reese a liar during his testimony Wednesday, Reese shouted back "You're a liar," prompting the judge to restore order.
"This is a serious breach of sportsmanlike conduct," Vernon said.