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Utah youth football coach under investigation for child abuse after allegedly concussing 13-year-old opposing player

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

In one of the most disturbing incidents of outrageous parental behavior at a youth sporting event in memory, a 45-year-old Utah youth football coach has been arrested on investigation into second-degree felony child abuse after he gave an opposing 13-year-old player a concussion in the fourth quarter of a tied youth football game.

As reported by the Associated Press and a variety of Utah outlets, Payson, Utah, police arrested Nathan Harris under investigation of a charge of child abuse in connection with an incident in which he stepped off the sideline and leveled an oncoming running back with a forearm barge.

"As the 13-year-old ran down, Mr. Harris stepped out and hit him with his forearm under his chin," Payson police Sgt. Lance Smith told the AP. "And then Mr. Harris stepped back and just stood there."

The game's referee, David Durrant, ejected the coach immediately after the incident, while the unnamed boy in question was forced to remain out of the game and will now miss roughly a month of playing time as a result of the concussion he suffered from the impact, according to the AP.

While the coach was ejected from the game on Saturday, he was not arrested until Monday, after police had viewed video of the incident and taken a number of eyewitness accounts that claimed that the coach had clearly acted maliciously.

Harris' lawyer has claimed that the entire incident was an honest mistake and that police have relied far too much on distant witnesses and grainy video that -- in his view -- doesn't accurately portray how the incident unfolded.

"He never crosses the line between where the spectators would be and where the field of play is," Dean Zabriskie, Harris' legal representative, told Salt Lake City TV network KSL. "The young man that was involved in this is running toward the sideline. He breaches the sideline and there is a collision.

"It looks to us like [the witnesses] were on the other side of the field, at least 200 feet away, and of course representing the other team."

"It seems to me like a tempest in a teapot," Zabriskie told the AP.

Police saw enough evidence to question that claim, as did the mother of the victim, who released a statement to the media following the coach's arrest.

"My son was running the ball out of bounds when out of nowhere the other team's coach blindsided him and knocked him to the ground! The stands were instantly in a riot and our coaches stormed the field."

Utah statutes call for the charges Harris faces to carry a penalty of a fine of up to $10,000 and an imprisonment of between 1 and 15 years if he is eventually convicted of second-degree felony child abuse, all of which is testament to the fact that his decision to unquestionably raise a forearm will have a significant effect on both his victim and the coach himself, whether the action was intended to harm or not.

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