Friday, October 13, 2006

Appropriate Punishment?

Remember this idiot?

A Fayette County T-ball coach was sent directly to prison Thursday for offering one of his players $25 to intentionally hit an autistic teammate with a ball during a pre-game warm-up last year.

Fayette County Judge Ralph Warman sentenced Mark Downs Jr. to serve one to six years in a state prison and banned him from supervising any youth sports teams when he is paroled.

Downs was taken to the Fayette County Prison, where he will await assignment to a state correctional facility.

Jurors found Downs guilty last month of corruption of minors and conspiracy to commit simple assault for a June 27, 2005, incident in which a player said the coach offered him cash to throw a ball at Harry Bowers Jr. during warm-ups for a play-off game so that Harry would be unable to play.

At the time, the child with autism was 9, the other child was 8. Mark Downs is a husband and father to four children, including twin girls who played on the team.

Warman could have sentenced Downs to a maximum of five to 10 years for the pair of first-degree misdemeanors. The judge called Downs' acts "extremely outrageous and extremely reprehensible."

During the trial, Keith testified that Downs told him to "try hitting him harder in the face" after an initial practice toss bounced off the ground and hit Harry in the groin. Keith said his next throw smacked Harry "straight in the ear."

The president of the Autism Society of Pittsburgh said a prison term is appropriate for a coach who showed a "win-at-all-costs" attitude.

Win-at-all-costs? I'm about to say something that will likely get me pilloried, but isn't this prison sentence a bit extreme? Do NOT get me wrong. If this is true than the guy is a complete slimeball and should be punished. But he had a good reputation as a coach prior to this incident. And how in the world does his serving one to six years in prison for solve this? I think this is too much. I'd much rather he be forced to serve time working with autistic kids or something, but prison? I don't agree. While his acts were outrageous and reprehensible, I agree with the sentiments of Daniel Torisky, president of the Autism Society of Pittsburgh:

"More appropriate would be for him to be subjected to the same pain and embarrassment that he arranged to be given to this autistic boy."

Now this would be more appropriate in my mind. And as a coach and father myself I'd be the first guy in line with a couple of baseballs, awaiting the judge's order to proceed with the punishment. Put Mr. Down's head in my strikezone...but first I need to bounce one or two off his groin. Just until I'm warmed up, and you wouldn't have to give me $25 either.


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