Last updated: January 22. 2014 4:30AM - 1842 Views
By Ron Gregory ronjgregory@gmail.com

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Amazingly enough, even semi-sane folks like my old friend, Pat O’Reilly, can somehow buy into the argument that law enforcement officials have no right to go onto a basketball court and enforce the law.

In recent weeks, I have chastised those with that opinion as nothing short of morons. But O’Reilly, a long-time game official, is definitely not in that category. In fact, I greatly respect O’Reilly’s opinions and dedication to the game.

I continue to respectfully believe that even O’Reilly is dead wrong on this one, but I am a bit shaken by his insistence that a supreme court ruling gave the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission all power over athletics in the state. When the ruling in the South Charleston-Martinsburg football case was handed down, I boldly proclaimed that SSAC head Gary Ray was nothing short of the second coming, according to the court. There is no doubt, either, that the supreme court of West Virginia has upheld both the SSAC and the state Department of Education as all-powerful in past rulings.

Even when the DOE engineered the takeover of Lincoln County schools so they could force consolidation on a population that did not want it, the supremes turned deaf ears to anyone with a differing point of view. That despite the fact that some of the supreme court members had campaigned in Lincoln County on planning to stop the consolidation error the DOE created.

We are accustomed to lying politicians, particularly in the Mountain State where those who favored statehood in 1863 argued that Richmond had forgotten this area and it would prosper as few others if it became a separate state. That prosperity apparently lies just beyond the horizon still. Go to Southwest Virginia and see the beautiful schools, roads and facilities Richmond has built. Come to West Virginia and see … well, there’s no reason to go into it.

I cannot believe, however, that any court, anywhere is going to agree that a law enforcement has to be “beckoned” onto the court or playing field by a game official before he or she can rush out there. That is simply ludicrous on its face.

As I have noted on several previous occasions, if a man is beating his wife in the front yard of their private home, or vice versa, and a lawman or woman drives by, he or she has a right to go onto that property to enforce the law. The gyms and fields the SSAC has jurisdiction over are all public property, where law officials have an even clearer duty to see that the law is followed.

I have questioned since the beginning of this fiasco what those who think officers did something wrong in going on to the court would have said if the police stood idly by and watched the fight. What if the player who was choking his adversary from the other team had not been stopped? If a death or serious injury had occurred, want to bet whether the same people berating the police would have been asking why they did nothing?

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Several sensible game officials have told me just what I quoted one as saying recently. “We’re too busy trying to separate players to beckon anybody,” he said. “But we sure are glad when we see law enforcement on the court.”

* * * * * *

Let’s review what brought us to this point. A brawl broke out after a missed-shot rebound during the Scott-Logan boys basketball game December 14 at Chapmanville Regional High School. Coaches from both teams rushed to separate the fighters. At virtually the same time, officers from the Chapmanville police department and Logan County Sheriff’s Office ran to the melee as well.

While two players from opposite teams were scuffling on the floor, a Chapmanville police officer crouched to separate them. Logan Head Coach Mark Hatcher reached toward the combatants and, in doing so, shoved the policeman who landed on his rear. Immediately, the remaining officers grabbed Hatcher and began to escort him from the court. The one officer got up and joined in the walk to the Logan bench.

Film I have seen does not clearly show the bench walk, although Hatcher can be seen shouting obscenities at the police. The Chapmanville officer Tucker, maintains in a filed complaint that Hatcher again pushed him away and used a number of curse words while doing so.

As I have noted on several previous occasions, we have no Hatcher version of what happened. Although I tried to get Hatcher’s side, he steadfastly refused to discuss the incident. To us, he would talk only of his team’s big win over rival Scott.

But Hatcher did talk to The Charleston Gazette at the same time he refused to talk to local reporters. I am told a decidedly pro-Hatcher story appeared in the Morning Sickcall, although I do not read it and do not know what Hatcher said. What he SHOULD have said to one and all was that he was sorry for his role in the sordid mess. I am confident he did not say that, however.

That is primarily because, since the moment the incident occurred, neither Hatcher nor his trained followers have even considered for a minute that Hatcher might have been out of control. They apparently do not realize he made a jerk of himself in front of his team, his family, his fans and everyone else in that gym at the time. But let me assure he, that’s just what he did.

I have no idea why any Logan High team member would ever have any respect for law enforcement if they pattern themselves after their coach’s behavior. If a cop stops one of the guys for speeding, it would be just as logical for the kid to look at the officer, say, “f—- you” and drive away. That’s essentially what their coach did, except that he was cursing and pushing and pulling all the way to the bench.

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There is an outside chance Hatcher could be indicted or actually go to trial. It is not a good chance, but it exists. Circuit Judge Roger Perry is taking over grand jury deliberations in January from Hatcher’s step-father, Eric O’Briant. Perry is also the judge who would hear the Hatcher case, regardless.

That is an apparent attempt to make it appear justice is being followed in Hatcher’s case. But we all know it isn’t. Do I need to mention what every Logan reader of this column already knows? Hatcher stands a much better chance with Judge Perry than you or I or Joe Blow from Kokomo would stand under similar circumstances.

Logan Prosecutor John Bennett asked for a special prosecutor in the case. One reason was because he had known Hatcher for more than 20 years. How long do you suppose the two judges have known each other? And do they really expect us to swallow the story that they are not consulting each other with regard to the matter. We didn’t all just arrive on the Mayflower.

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Will justice be done in the Hatcher case? Absolutely not and you can go to the bank on that one. Will there be a slap on the wrist from somebody? Maybe, just to make it all look good. A fair trial is far from anybody in power’s plans.

* * * * * *

Now that I have made it impossible for me to set foot in Logan again, let me return to O’Reilly. I respectfully told him I see little correlation between the South Charleston-Martinsburg ruling and the current case.

What the supreme court decided in the SC case was that a local circuit court did not have the power to overrule an administrative decision by the SSAC. In the instant matter, no SSAC ruling is being challenged to my knowledge. Most game officials say they agree that the law officers had an inherent right to come onto the court. O’Reilly apparently believes that they can only come out if “beckoned” by game officials, including perhaps the school principal and athletic director.

In this case, CRHS Principal Kathy Moore told me a part of her request to law enforcement was to “break up any trouble.” After the melee, she said she felt the officers acted properly. So do I and any law-abiding citizen.

O’Reilly is himself a game official. He is a fair and good game official. But he is simply wrong in thinking game officials are all-powerful on the basketball court. If a game is being played in an officer’s bailiwick, he or she has an absolute duty to enforce the law. No game official or the SSAC can overrule that. This is not a case where a Kanawha County judge can be accused of “home cooking” because she decides South Charleston players ejected by officials can go ahead and play. This is a situation in which police officers are routinely trained to do their duty.

* * * * * *

Again, what would O’Reilly have thought if the officers stood by and watched one player murder or maim another? Would he really have thought they needed to be “beckoned” onto the court? Surely, surely not.

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And I know your name is not “Surely” or “Shirley.”

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Then I have to comment on yet another bizarre aspect of this whole fiasco. Officer Tucker, when filing his complaint, noted who went onto the floor to break up the fight from the law enforcement side. After naming himself, another Chapmanville officer and two deputies, Tucker oddly added that CRHS student Matt Dingess “assisted” in the episode.

This is the same Matt Dingess that everyone from Sheriff Sonja Porter to Porky Pig has insisted they didn’t know prior to the brawl. It’s the same Matt Dingess the sheriff’s office said had never been a “junior deputy” because they do not operate a “junior deputy” program. It is the same Matt Dingess that Chapmanville fire officials insist never participated in fighting a fire despite numerous photos of him in a fireman’s uniform.

And he “assisted” in breaking up the fight? Holy moley. Did Tucker not know the party line when he filed the report? He wasn’t supposed to know who Dingess was, much less identify him as “assisting” in the incident.

While the Chapmanville chief and police department have become deaf mutes since the incident (at least they apparently can’t talk), I am amazed at this report. I am sure no explanation will be forthcoming from anyone in authority at Chapmanville.

* * * * * *

There goes my chance of being named “citizen of the year” in Chapmanville, too.

* * * * * *

Oh yeah, that’s Logan County, where I couldn’t safely travel anyway.

* * * * * *

As we perhaps get ready to see some break in this winter weather, the Scott Skyhawks are reeling from another lopsided loss to Poca. One wonders what has happened to the team that gave Logan all it wanted back in mid-December.

I have hope that Head Coach Nick Cabell will right the ship before tournament time rolls around, If not, it will have been a fall and winter of unrest at Scott High, with the failure of both the football and boys basketball teams.

* * * * * *

Thank a merciful God that I was covering Scott when they played Logan during the melee at Chapmanville. A writer could hardly ask for more.

* * * * * *

Meanwhile, could Marshall Head Coach Tom Herrion be any more inept? The Herd mens team is a disaster, losing to the likes of North Texas by 30 points.

If MU does not awake and get rid of this pitiful excuse for a coach, they will sink deeper and deeper into the Conference USA cellar.

* * * * * *

And, with West Virginia University finally playing against some talent in the Big 12, we see how far Bob Huggins has brought the Mountaineers from last season’s disastrous performances. Not far.

Happy news for a non-WVU fan.

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Keep sending your game results, story ideas and rumors to my email or call my cell, 304-533-5185.

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