Ex-coach appealing Pa. autistic boy’s beaning case

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UNIONTOWN (AP) – A former Western Pennsylvania T-ball coach wants a judge to grant him a new trial or let him appeal his conviction on charges the he offered a player $25 to bean a 9-year-old autistic teammate.


Mark Downs Jr., 36, formerly of South Union Township, was convicted of corruption of minors and conspiracy to commit simple assault and sentenced in 2006 to one to six years in prison for the incident before a 2005 playoff game.


Prosecutors contend Downs offered money to an 8-year-old player to hit a mildly autistic teammate with a ball during warm-ups because Downs wanted the disabled boy to be too hurt to play in the game. The league had a rule that all players on a team had to participate in each game.


Downs served the minimum sentence but was sent back to state prison for violating a protection-from-abuse order obtained by his estranged wife. He remains incarcerated on a parole detainer.


In his new motion, Downs continues to deny purposely having a player throw a ball at the autistic boy. Downs maintains his related remarks were misunderstood and the player who threw the ball and his family lied about the incident.


A judge scheduled a hearing Oct. 20 on the request.


The boy who threw the ball testified at trial that his first effort to injure the other boy bounced off the ground and hit him in the groin. At that point, the boy contends Downs told him to “try hitting him harder in the face.”


Downs’ new attorney, Patrick Thomassey, said a previous attorney missed the deadline to file a Superior Court appeal by one day.


The motion also challenges the trial tactics of Downs’ first attorney, including calling the mother of the boy who threw the bean ball at his autistic teammate. When that woman refused to testify that her son threw the ball as the result of a misunderstanding – as Downs and his attorney desired – the attorney then tried to call the president of the T-ball league to impeach the woman, but Warman didn’t allow it.


The result of that, according to the motion, was “leaving a negative impression on the jury and prejudicing them against his defense.”


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