LOGAN – The former coach of Logan High School’s boys basketball team has sued the Town of Chapmanville over what he calls a false arrest and malicious prosecution following a brawl during a game.
Mark Hatcher was Logan’s coach during the 2013-14 season, according to his complaint filed in Logan Circuit Court. On Dec. 14, the Wildcats were playing a tournament game against Scott High at Chapmanville High School when a loose ball skirmish late in the game resulted in fight.
Players from both teams acted in an unsportsmanlike manner, the complaint states. It says Hatcher went onto the court after Scott Coach Nick Cabell had to pull his players off the court. The complaint notes that the National Federation of High School Athletes had decided earlier in 2013 that if such skirmishes occurred, the head coach could come onto the court to help control his players and defuse the situation.
Hatcher “recognized that for unknown reasons there were numerous adults on the court but at the time did not know who or why they were there,” the complaint states. As he went to grab one of his players in a pile on the floor, Hatcher says he reached for the person closest to him, a person “dressed in the similar colors as Scott High School coaches.”
“After moving this person aside, plaintiff realized he was a Logan County Sheriff’s Deputy,” the complaint states. “The deputy was upset that plaintiff had touched him. As the deputy stood up, plaintiff was able to grab his player. The deputy and plaintiff exchanged comments with the plaintiff attempting to inform the deputy that he was there simply to get his players off the court.”
As Hatcher left the court with his player, he says someone screamed at him, grabbed his left wrist and tried to move his arm behind his back and handcuff him after alleging Hatcher pushed him. But he says he jerked away and went to his bench. That person was Chapmanville Police Officer Nick Tucker, a graduate of Scott High.
At the same time, Hatcher claims, “Special” Chapmanville Officer Matthew Dingess, a 17-year-old high school student who had attended Junior Trooper Academy, also tried to grab his arm. Hatcher says he saw Dingess in the skirmish restraining one of the Logan High players with his knee on the athlete’s back.
“As the plaintiff continued towards (sic) the Logan High School bench, Officer Tucker yelled to the plaintiff that he was going to arrest him following the game,” the complaint states. “When the basketball officials gained control of the situation, two players were ejected, but no technical fouls were awarded to either team for the conduct of any player or coach.”
After the game, Hatcher says seven or eight Chapmanville police officers and/or Logan County Sheriff deputies were waiting for him. He was handcuffed and arrested by Tucker and taken to Town Hall. He says he wasn’t given his Miranda rights at the gym or Town Hall.
“’Special Town of Chapmanville Police Officer’ Matthew Dingess was improperly permitted to interrogate the plaintiff and question him outside the scope of his legal authority,” the complaint states. He said Logan County Magistrate Leonard Codispoti found probable cause to file a criminal complaint against Hatcher based on false, misleading, malicious and intentional misrepresentations by Tucker and others.
A special magistrate, James Boles from Wyoming County, was assigned to hear the criminal complaint. A special prosecutor, Teresa Mayanrd of Mingo County, was appointed to prosecute the case. Before the hearing, Hatcher says Tucker and Maynard offered to dismiss the charges if he issued a public apology. Hatcher refused, saying he did nothing improper. He says Tucker also offered to dismiss the charges if Hatcher would sign an agreement not to file suit against the town. Again, Hatcher says he refused.
Hatcher says no evidence or testimony meeting proper requirements were offered, and that all reports and statements by the Town of Chapmanville were thrown out. The assault charge was dropped in August 2014. During an October 2014 hearing, a video of the event was shown. Hatcher says Tucker could not identify when Hatcher allegedly battered him.
Hatcher accused Chapmanville of false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress and a tort of outrage. He seeks compensatory damages as well as punitive damages of $500,000 or four times the compensatory damages awarded, whichever is greater. He also seeks attorney fees, court costs and other relief.
Hatcher is being represented by Bruce Freeman and Gregory B. Chiartas of the Charleston law firm of Freeman & Chiartas. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Roger Perry.
Hatcher, 44, won state titles in Class AA and Class AAA in his 15 seasons with the Wildcats. He is a 1989 Logan High graduate. He accepted a position with a medical supplies distributor when he resigned from the coaching job this spring.
Logan Circuit Court case number: 15-C-193
Online at www.wvrecord.com