WILMINGTON TOWNSHIP2 dads charged after fight at sports complex, police say
By Sherris Moreira-Byers
Herald Staff Writer
A fight among several teen-agers took a turn for the worse when the fathers of two of them jumped into the fray before a soccer game at the Y-Zone, Neshannock Township police said.
The men were charged with disorderly conduct and harassment a day after the Jan. 23 incident at the Lawrence County YMCA-owned indoor sports complex on Mitchell Road, police said.
Robert Whiting, 46, of 153 Cowden Road, Wilmington Township, and Randall Clause, 43, of 145 Neshannock Trails Drive, Neshannock Township, got involved after their sons and another student began arguing and shoving, police said.
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by police, Clause began fighting with "the first father," which was Whiting.
Patrolman Phil Carlo said that although the report didn't make it clear, both fathers were fighting. Police didn't arrive until after the incident.
But according to a Wilmington High School senior who said he was part of the initial melee, the charges against Whiting are unjust.
"I'm really upset about this. He's (Whiting) getting the raw end of the deal here when it was us," said Matt Krawchyk, 18.
Krawchyk said most of the Wilmington football team plays soccer at the Y-Zone and Whiting, who is president of Wilmington Football Boosters, was there as a coach/chaperone.
Krawchyk said he and Whiting's son Brandon approached a Neshannock Township teen he suspected of writing an obscenity on his car the previous week at the sports complex. Krawchyk said he asked the boy why he did it.
"He immediately got in my face, and Brandon pushed him away from me," said Krawchyk, adding that a Y-Zone official immediately grabbed Brandon. "But then the kid started coming back at us."
That's when Robert Whiting said he got involved.
"I don't want to see kids fighting," Whiting said. "I wasn't angry or out of control. I never punched anyone or had that intent. I was just trying to break up a fight."
Whiting said he grabbed the shirt of the Neshannock Township teen -- reportedly the son of Randall Clause -- lifted him up and quickly pushed him against a Plexiglas wall surrounding the indoor soccer field.
"He just grabbed him (Neshannock Township teen) and pushed him back away. The kid was trying to swing at Mr. Whiting, but he just held him back," Krawchyk said.
Krawchyk and Rob Hudock, a New Wilmington sophomore who said he was also there, said Clause then hit Whiting in the back, knocking off his glasses, then knocked him to the ground.
"It's like he sucker punched Mr. Whiting in the back, then before he could get turned around, he (Clause) knocked him down," Hudock said.
Whiting, who sought medical care the next day, said he found out that a ligament was torn in his knee and that he may have to have surgery.
Whiting said he is frustrated and disturbed by the charges.
"I never dreamed me breaking up a fight would end up like this," said the father of five. "I'm an executive. I've worked my entire life with kids. I was upset with Matt and my son because of their involvement in the situation. I felt responsible for them because I was the chaperone."
Krawchyk said Whiting was "just breaking up ... a stupid conflict between kids."
He described Whiting as "really laid back" and offered to help Whiting pay any fines if he's found guilty.
Whiting said he will not plead guilty to the charges, has hired attorney David H. Acker, New Castle, and is lining up witnesses.
Clause, who did not return messages left by The Herald, said twice he would call the newspaper back to comment but did not. He said he wanted to hear what other people said about the incident before giving his opinion.
If either man is found guilty, the charges could net them a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $300 fine for each charge, according to District Justice James A. Reed.
Whiting and Clause are banned from the Y-Zone until the club finishes its own investigation, said Dan Harris, executive director of the Lawrence County YMCA.
Despite all that, Whiting said he would not change his response to the situation.
"I'll be honest with you. If I saw it again, I'd try to stop it again. All I could think about was that guy in Boston, and I thought, "Oh My God, someone's going to get hurt in little New Wilmington," Whiting said. "Then I get cited. I'm just flabbergasted."
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