Attacking Violence in Sports: Delegate Proposes Stiffer Punishment

Article excerpt

RICHMOND - Pro basketball star Latrell Sprewell is lucky he did not choke coach P.J. Carlesimo in Virginia.

Delegate John S. "Jack" Reid, a Richmond-area Republican, yesterday proposed a bill that would mandate at least two days in jail for anyone who intentionally assaults a sports official.

Anyone who batters a referee, umpire, coach, instructor, administrator or other school employee at an athletic contest would get 15 days to six months in jail and up to $500 in fines. A judge could reduce the penalty to probation, but the guilty person would serve at least two days in jail.

Twelve states have similar laws.

"There has been a disturbing increase in the number of reported assaults across the country against men and women who officiate athletic contests at every level," says Mr. Reid, who works as a school administrator.

"The message needs to go out" that if a spectator or athlete attacks an official "you will go to jail for at least two days," he said.

Mr. Reid, 55, a delegate since 1990, says the Sprewell case highlights attacks against sports officials. But his bill is aimed chiefly at halting attacks against officials in scholastic sports. A member of a high school sports officials organization brought the idea to Mr. Reid in the spring.

Democrats on the House Courts of Justice Committee say Mr. Reid's bill is out of bounds.

"It seems to me the current law already provides for a remedy," said Delegate James Almand, Arlington Democrat, a lawyer who serves as chairman of the House panel.

"Assault and battery are Class 1 misdemeanors" that provide a maximum of 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine," he said. …