Wellborn High School football coach Jeff Smith was cleared of a misdemeanor harassment charge Wednesday, ending a case sparked by a mother’s complaint Smith had shoved her son into another player.
Smith said after a city judge’s ruling Wednesday that he’s ready to “move forward.”
“I’m very relieved this is over,” Smith said immediately after being found not guilty by Anniston municipal judge James Sims. “I love our school and our community and our players, and I’m ready to move forward and us reach our goal to win a state championship.”
Sims heard Smith’s case last week and took it under advisement. After reviewing harassment statutes, Sims found that evidence and testimony did not meet the threshold required by the statute, hence the not-guilty verdict.
“We’re pleased with the results,” said Shaun Malone, Smith’s Alabama Education Association attorney. “It’s certainly consistent with the testimony of over six eyewitnesses who saw Coach Smith do nothing more than motivate his team.”
Smith turned himself into Anniston police Oct. 13 after a player’s mother filed the harassment charge, accusing Smith of shoving her son following a loss to Piedmont.
The 14-year-old student was in the locker room after the game with teammates when Smith allegedly “started cussing, screaming and calling individual kids out,” the player’s mother told The Star on Oct. 14. She declined to give her name.
“He got to pushing kids,” she said. “He got so my son, grabbed him from the back shoulder pads and threw him into the back of another player.”
The mother said she tried to confront the coach about the incident, but he denied her son’s account.
Calhoun County Schools Superintendent Joe Dyar told The Star on Oct. 14 that the case, from the standpoint of the school system, was closed.
“The information that was brought to the principal and myself has been thoroughly investigated by all stakeholders, and the conclusion is that there is no indication whatsoever that Coach Smith has harassed or made a mistake with this situation,” Dyar said then.
Malone said Smith has “been cleared by every agency that has investigated this matter.”
Smith coached Wellborn’s remaining three games in the 2016 season, wins over Glencoe and White Plains and a loss to Randolph County. The Panthers finished 5-4.
A Wellborn graduate, Smith is 55-34 in eight seasons as Wellborn’s head coach. He’s 131-89 in 20 seasons overall, including stints at Ohatchee and Hueytown.
“Coach Smith is a product of Wellborn High School,” Malone said. “He loves that school, and he loves those kids he coaches. He is certainly glad to put this behind him and move forward to the spring workouts.”