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JURY ACQUITS YOUTH FOOTBALL COACH ON CHARGE OF ASSAULTING A PLAYER

A Depew man accused of attacking a child during a youth football game last year was acquitted of assault this week.

Michael Campbell, 27, was found not guilty of the misdemeanor charge following a three-day trial before Cheektowaga Town Justice Thomas S. Kolbert.

Charles J. Marchese, Campbell's lawyer, said he produced several witnesses to testify that Campbell merely "touched" one child on the shoulder pad to indicate to a referee that the boy had illegally blocked his son.

"The whole issue of a coach assaulting a child at a sporting event is a highly emotional one, as well it should be," Marchese said. "However, with all these people looking on at something transpiring before their eyes, there really was no credible eyewitness account of this happening."

Campbell previously admitted both cursing at the referees for not calling a penalty on the play and making "contact" with one of the players on the other team. But he denied assaulting the player, saying he merely touched one of the boys on the left shoulder.

The fracas occurred Sept. 12, 1999, during a game between the Black Rock-Riverside Panthers and the Airlane Warriors, for which Campbell was an assistant coach. The Raiders were trailing, 13-12, with 27 seconds to play, but had the ball on the Warriors' 4-yard line.

The game was suspended at that point after Campbell rushed onto the field in Stiglmeier Park and -- according to reports at the time -- knocked down two Raiders after he said he saw his son illegally blocked from behind.

The player Campbell was accused of attacking reportedly suffered a concussion. However, Marchese this week claimed the boy's injury likely occurred when he was tackled at the 5-yard line by several Warriors, moments after his son was blocked upfield.

But when Campbell ran onto the field, yelling at the referees, pandemonium resulted, according to witnesses at the time.

"There's another player on the ground, too, a lot of confusion, the coaches go out there, my client is yelling at the ref about not making the call on the clip -- everyone concedes there were obscenities -- and someone yells, 'He touched one of our players,' " Marchese said.

The jury deliberated for about 40 minutes before finding Campbell not guilty.

Police said they pressed charges against Campbell on the complaint of his father.

"We called all the witnesses that we had to testify to the complainant's version of what happened, and they chose apparently to believe otherwise," District Attorney Frank J. Clark said Wednesday.

"Juries have reasons for what they do, and here I think they may have had a reasonable doubt as to what caused the injury to the complainant."

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