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Coach Faces Felony Assault Charge for Striking Player with Helmet

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USA TODAY
October 23, 2013 Wednesday
FINAL EDITION
SPORTS; Pg. 3C
357 words
High school football coach faces assault charge
Steve Lieberman, @LoHudLegal, USA TODAY Sports

Ramapo High School football coach Duffman Pannell has been charged with felony assault, accused of hitting a 15-year-old player in the head with a football helmet on the practice field, authorities said Tuesday.

The blow caused the student to bleed from above his left eye, which was swollen, a felony complaint against Pannell stated.

Pannell, 43, a first-year head coach who lives in Middletown, struck junior Brandon Girault on Monday during practice, authorities said.

Pannell was charged with second-degree assault based upon the severity of the injuries and endangering the welfare of a child. He was released without bail by Justice Alan Simon on Monday night for a court appearance scheduled for Oct. 29.

Girault, who signed a felony complaint filed by the police with Ramapo Justice Court, wrote that Pannell swung the helmet with his right hand to "purposely strike him in the head, causing considerable pain, swelling and bleeding above his left eye."

No one was home at Girault's address Tuesday afternoon.

Ramapo police referred questions to the East Ramapo School District.

Pannell, a social studies teacher, has not been suspended but will not be coaching or teaching while the investigation is continuing, according to a statement released by district superintendent Joel Klein. "We are conducting an internal investigation in conjunction with the Ramapo Police Department. ... Until the investigation is completed, the coach has been released from his coaching responsibilities," the statement read.

Klein said no decision on whether disciplinary charges would be filed would be made until the investigation or the court proceedings were completed. He said the players who attended the practice were still being interviewed by detectives.

"Right now we have to find out exactly what's going on by speaking to the witnesses," Klein said. "The whole team was there, so it could be a lengthy process. Witnesses sometimes see things differently."

Pannell and Bill Pilla, East Ramapo's athletics director, did not respond to requests for comment.

Lieberman also writes for The Journal News in Westchester County, N.Y. Contributing: Josh Thomson.

October 23, 2013

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