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Volunteer assistant football coach at Ni River Middle School is charged with felony in kicking of seventh-grader at practice
By PAMELA GOULD
The volunteer assistant football coach accused of kicking a Ni River Middle School seventh-grader during Tuesday's football practice was charged with a felony Thursday.
Joseph Bernard Hart, 21, of Spotsylvania was charged with felony cruelty and injuries to children and faces up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted, according to Spotsylvania Sheriff's Capt. Mike Harvey.
Hart has voluntarily resigned from the team. The Spotsylvania school division has banned Hart from coming onto the grounds of any county school, schools spokeswoman Rene Daniels said Thursday.
Hart told school officials he was resigning as coach as they prepared to dismiss him during the joint police-school investigation on Wednesday, Daniels said.
School officials said this was his first year coaching.
Football practice was canceled on Wednesday as a result of the investigation.
Also on Thursday, the Sheriff's Office charged Maurice Smith, 43, with assault and battery of the coach, Harvey said.
Smith is the father of the 12-year-old who was kicked and injured. Smith allegedly punched the coach on Tuesday after learning what had happened to his son, Harvey said.
Assault and battery is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Hart and Smith both turned themselves in to authorities on Thursday. Both were released on bond, Harvey said. Court dates were not available.
According to the family, Smith's son weighs 90 pounds, stands 5 feet, 4 inches and was on the sidelines during practice on Tuesday when Hart kicked him.
The boy blacked out briefly after he landed on the ground. No school official rendered any medical assistance, the family has said.
The boy's parents took him to a local emergency room for treatment, and he has stayed home from school since then to heal.
The division failed to conduct a criminal background check on Hart before allowing him to coach as is required by division policy, Daniels said after inquiries by The Free Lance-Star.
A check by the newspaper of court records for Spotsylvania, Stafford, Caroline and King George counties and the city of Fredericksburg found no adult criminal charges for Hart.
Daniels said the division's Human Resources Department erroneously told Ni River administrators that the check had been completed.