By Chris Mays
BRATTLEBORO — A Saxtons River man was found not guilty by a jury of disorderly conduct and simple assault of a 12-year-old boy during a basketball game.
Kevin S. Douglass, 42, was found not guilty of the charges, which stemmed from an incident on Sept. 24, 2015. The boy's father told the Vermont State Police that his son was assaulted that night during a basketball game at Bellows Falls Union High School. Douglass was upset that the boy took his daughter's ball.
A witness said he stepped in front of Douglass to stop him and Douglass continued to yell at the boy "about being a bully and that he was sick of that stuff," according to an affidavit.
The day after the incident, Douglass told police he became very upset during the game. Douglass said the boy moved away from his daughter with the ball and Douglass asked the boy where he had gotten it from. Initially, Douglass told police, the boy said he did not know.
"Douglass then asked, 'Did you take it from my daughter?'" police wrote in the affidavit. "Douglass stated that [the boy] told him he did."
During the interview with police, Douglass was asked if he was as calm and rational while speaking with the victim. Douglass "advised steadfastly, 'Oh no. I was very loud, vocal and aggressive,'" police said. "Douglass advised he went way overboard."
The boy claimed Douglass punched him in the face and showed police some bruises on his body.
During the trial, the boy's father said he knew Douglass and that they had gone to school together and knew each others' families.
Since Sept. 24, the boy's father said, he and Douglass have had "zero contact." He described the event where the incident took place as a "community-type basketball game" in which the Harlem Wizards played. The team, in existence since the early 1960s, helps schools and other organizations with fundraising and community building.
During the trial on Wednesday, the boy's father said there must have been 40 or 50 basketballs in the building the night of the game. They were being sold to spectators. The father said he saw his son with several friends "crying ... He was upset. He couldn't really get a lot of words out of him."
Defense attorney James Valente told the Reformer the boy claimed he was hit in the face with a closed fist at "full power."
"We had photographs of him from later that night that showed the absence of any serious injury or marking," said Valente.
Surveillance video from the cafeteria did not show the confrontation. But onlookers could be seen in the footage played in the courtroom.
"You could see the people around them who are, let's say, between six and 10 feet away from them, and there were probably 40 or 50 people in the cafeteria," Valente said. "They didn't react suddenly as if someone had punched another person, as if a tussle was going on."
Valente said a witness, who was mentoring and supervising another young man, would have reacted if that was the case.
At the end of the trial, Valente said, Douglass testified and said "the ball had been taken, that he had gone and picked up the ball and reached for it at the same time, put his hand on the young man's shoulder — not to hurt, grab, injure or squeeze him — but so he could pick up his daughter's ball."
"And I think the jury found him credible," said Valente.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.