LOGAN – An April 25 trial date has now been set for Logan High School head boys basketball coach Mark Hatcher. The trial is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
Hatcher, 43, of Logan, has been charged since December 14, 2013 with assaulting a Chapmanville town police officer during a brawl at Chapmanville Regional High School. A boys basketball game between Logan and Scott highs erupted into a melee during the battle for a rebound. The incident occurred at CRHS, which was hosting the Nationwide Insurance Basketball Classic. Logan eventually won the game after players were separated.
Hatcher is charged with assaulting Chapmanville police officer N.D. Tucker as the pair were apparently attempting to break-up the fight. Hatcher has maintained, to Charleston media outlets, that he went onto the floor pursuant to West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (SSAC) rules. The highly-successful coach said he simply went to separate players and escort his members back to their bench.
A video of the game shows Hatcher apparently pushed Tucker, although the shove may have been accidental. It appears that Tucker was crouched attempting to separate two players on the floor when Hatcher reached toward the same pair. In doing so, the video seems to show that Hatcher touched Tucker and, seconds later, Tucker is seen sprawled on the floor.
The warrant for Hatcher’s arrest maintains he pushed Tucker as the officer and others were escorting the coach off the court and back to his team bench.
Further controversy arose surrounding the incident when a Logan Banner photo of Hatcher being escorted off the playing court showed what appeared to be a Logan County deputy sheriff who turned out to be a student at CRHS. Law enforcement officials originally denied knowing who the student was but it was later revealed, through photographs and social media, that the youth had regularly joined officers in what appeared to be police-related settings.
He was described as a Chapmanville fireman and a Sheriff’s spokesman denied the student was wearing a sheriff’s uniform, as most observers believed. The youth did stand with police officers near the court throughout the evening, however.
Chief Deputy M. Mayes said the youth was wearing a “shirt that looked like a sheriff’s uniform but there was no badge on it.” He added that, following the incident, the youngster was asked not to wear the shirt again.
In addition, Hatcher is the son of CRHS head boys basketball coach Allan Hatcher and stepson of Logan County Circuit Judge Roger O’Briant. Those at the scene that evening reported O’Briant came to the Chapmanville police department, apparently in support of his stepson, prior to the arrest. Allan Hatcher, whose team played in a game following the Logan-Scott match, left his team bench for several minutes during that game and walked to the Chapmanville police station as well.
Hatcher supporters have maintained, since the incident, that the veteran coach was a “target” of Chapmanville police, particularly Tucker, because of personal differences. They also say the rivalry between the two Logan County schools, Logan and CRHS, contributed to the arrest.
Other Logan partisans said police officers cannot go onto a basketball court or athletic field without being “beckoned by game officials,” which apparently did not occur. However, the SSAC and police spokesmen say that is not true and officers can enforce all laws within their jurisdiction.
Hatcher was permitted to remain on the bench for his team’s victory but was detained almost immediately by police officers. After he was escorted to the police department across the parking lot from CRHS, reports quickly spread that he was being arrested.
Although sheriff’s deputies were involved in detaining the coach, Sheriff Sonja Porter said they were not a part of Hatcher’s arrest and were not expected to file an incident report. She also denied any knowledge of the student who participated in escorting Hatcher from the basketball court.
Logan County magistrates removed themselves from presiding over the case because of their long-time associations with the accused and his family. Prosecutor John Bennett also asked to be removed from the case because of his and staff member’s personal relationships with the coach and his family. Logan County’s other circuit judge, Roger Perry, has been handling the case at that level.
Magistrate J.R. Boles of Wyoming County has been assigned to hear the case. Mingo Prosecutor Teresa Maynard is the special prosecutor.
Hatcher was initially released on $2,500 personal recognizance bond. His attorney is Robert Ilderton of Logan.