The mother enrolled her 8-year-old autistic son in a Fayette County T-ball league "to help him socialize and gain confidence." Instead, the boy got a coach who offered to pay a 7-year-old teammate $25 to injure him before a game so the boy's limitations wouldn't keep the Falcons from a win, according to state police at Uniontown.
The 7-year-old boy threw a ball at his teammate's left ear and then threw another ball into his groin during warm-ups before the game, according to state police. The 8-year-old boy didn't play with the Falcons during the game on June 27 and went to the hospital instead.
Mark Reed Downs Jr., 27, of Dunbar, Fayette County, is accused of engineering the attack so the boy would be unable to play, police allege.
He was arraigned Friday on two counts of criminal solicitation and one count each of corruption of minors, criminal conspiracy and recklessly endangering another person. District Judge Deborah Kula, of North Union, released Downs on unsecured bond on the condition he has no contact with the victim or any witnesses in the case.
The boy's mother said she contacted state police only after she received no support from the R.W. Clark Little League in North Union, said Trooper Thomas B. Broadwater.
Downs "approached the other member of the team and told him that he would give him $25 to hit the victim on his head with a baseball so that the victim would not be able to play in the game," according to arrest records, and Downs told the victim "to take the night off after he was hit."
The boy was taken to The Uniontown Hospital for treatment and was released the same day, police said.
Downs allegedly told the father of the boy who threw the ball, 'I did an ignorant thing tonight," Broadwater said. Downs allegedly admitted to the father he offered the payment so the team wouldn't be hindered by the 8-year-old boy's physical limitations, according to the trooper.
The father "flipped out" on Downs, Broadwater said.
According to court records, the mother of the child with disabilities told police that Downs "looks for excuses not to play (her son) because he is not as talented as the other kids" despite a league rule requiring each child to play a minimum of three innings per game.
Before the June 27 game, the mother said, her son was tossing a ball around with the other boy. According to the affidavit, her son "came crying to her that (the other boy) had hit him on his head" behind his left ear. The mother said she sent her son back onto the field, and he was struck a second time, this time in the groin.
The mother said that "she then talked to (the boy) and he said that the coach, Mark Downs, had told him to hit (the victim). She stated that she confronted Downs and he denied doing anything wrong."
League president Eric Forsythe said he thought the incident has been "blown out of proportion," and that the boy simply missed the ball. He said he told Bowers, "If you feel this happened, call the police. She obviously took my advice."
A woman who answered the telephone listed as Downs' in the criminal complaint, denied the coach did anything wrong. The woman refused to identify herself and said Downs did not want to be interviewed.
"There is no story here. He (Downs) didn't do anything," she said before abruptly ending the telephone call.
The mother of the child with disabilities did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Court records allege the father of the other boy told him he "was helping Downs carry his bags to his car when Downs said that he had done something pretty ignorant."
They allege that Downs told the other boy he didn't want (the victim) to play because Downs "wanted to win. He stated that Mr. Downs told him that he would give him the $25 if his father signed him up for fall baseball."
Broadwater said Downs "has denied his involvement. He denies he ever made a statement of admission."
"I have no doubt that it happened," Broadwater said.
The victim's mother told Broadwater during an interview that the incident "culminated a season-long feud involving her son, who is physically limited.
"The coach (Downs) was very concerned about winning -- that's all he wants -- and made excuses for not playing the child," the mother told police.
Downs has also denied the allegations to his attorney, Thomas W. Shaffer, of Uniontown. "He told me that he would never put one kid up to hurt another," Shaffer said. "He said he has kids of his own and that he would never ask one kid to harm another kid."
Shaffer said Downs has three daughters, 8-year-old twins and a 4-year-old. The twins play for the Falcons.
Forsythe said the mother of the victim requested Downs as her son's coach because the two families "are friends." The mother put her son in the league "to help him socialize and gain confidence," according to court records.
The R.W. Clark Little League is not affiliated with the International Little League.
Chuck Brittain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-834-1151.
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