Seth H. Rocca, a 28-year-old assistant coach for the Upper Loudoun Youth Football League, was charged with assaulting a 14-year-old during practice last week after he allegedly shoved the teenage player to the ground. Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to the scene by the player’s parents, and “based on the results of the investigation, [Rocca] was charged with simple assault,” said Kraig Troxell, spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
But the charge was quickly questioned by other coaches and parents who witnessed the incident, some of whom told The Loudoun Times Mirror that the physical encounter was just a misunderstanding that escalated after Rocca and the player fell to the ground during a routine blocking drill.
The incident ignited an impassioned debate among local media readers who posted comments on The Times Mirror site. Some issued snap-judgments of Rocca and condemned his actions; many others aggressively accused the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office of mishandling and misrepresenting the situation.
On Wednesday, Rocca’s attorney, Gregory J. Harris, issued an appeal for civility in a statement on behalf of his client. An excerpt:
“Seth and I both feel the criticism in some of the postings to the online article is just way out of line and over the top...
While Seth would have preferred that the deputies interviewed all of the eyewitnesses, not just the irate father, they did interview one of the coaches who was there and they spoke to Seth. Seth and I both feel very strongly that if the eight other eyewitnesses, all parents and coaches had been interviewed, no charges would have been filed. Again, it is not the job of the deputies to play judge, jury and executioner. I have no doubt that based on what this father said, the deputies tried to do their job as best they saw it.”
In an interview, Harris noted that the player was a sizeable teen – nearly 250 pounds and about 6’2”. The boy was wearing pads and a helmet during the drill, Harris said; Rocca was not.
Harris also said that the player’s father was incensed by the incident, and threatened and cursed Rocca.
“He was telling Seth Rocca that he was never going to coach again, that his life as he knew it was over, that he would see to that,” Harris said. The father then threw his son’s shoulder pads toward another coach standing nearby, according to Harris.
Harris said that no other complaints have been brought against Rocca.
“He’s one of their very best assistant coaches,” he said.
Mark Powell, a Vice President with the Upper Loudoun Youth Football League, said the League’s board members could not comment on the incident. Of the Leesburg coaching team, Powell said only: “They’re a great group of guys.”
Troxell declined to comment further on the matter.
“The case is now in the hands of the Loudoun County court system,” he said.
Rocca will appear in Loudoun County District Court on Oct. 12 for a hearing to address a protective order requested by the player’s family, Harris said. A trial is scheduled for Nov. 10 at 10 a.m.
Harris said he and Rocca are optimistic about the outcome of the court proceedings.
“I think he’ll have overwhelming support from the players as well as all the other parents,” Harris said. “I think football is football, and from what all the eyewitnesses we’ve spoken to face-to-face say, this was football.”