A judge heard from 13 more witnesses Tuesday in the preliminary hearing for a former Silo baseball coach accused of intentionally hurling baseballs at junior high school players.
Prosecutors said they still had 21 more witnesses under subpoena after testimony concluded around 6 p.m. Tuesday in Special District Judge Trace Sherrill’s courtroom at the Bryan County Courthouse.
This prompted Sherrill to confer with prosecutors and defendant Roy West’s attorneys to find an open two days to complete the hearing. The case was set to continue on the morning of April 2.
All but two of the 13 witnesses who took the stand Tuesday were current or former members of the Silo Junior High baseball team. The other two were parents of players and were on the stand briefly.
Tuesday was the second day of testimony in the hearing, bringing the total number of witnesses to 16 after a day-long hearing in December.
None of the teenagers who took the stand Tuesday said they suffered injuries from West allegedly throwing baseballs at their backsides during an April 2013 team practice.
Most of the 11 boys who were called to testify this week said they had baseballs intentionally thrown at them as either punishment or conditioning for not “squaring up” and hitting balls properly during batting practice.
Many said West was not throwing the balls hard enough to cause injury, and many said they still trusted West and would practice with him again if given the opportunity.
The day went relatively smoothly – even with a brief lock down of the courthouse due to a reported gunman on a nearby street. According to a police dispatch log, a juvenile detention worker called at 1:54 p.m. and said someone in a nearby parking lot was yelling and screaming, and threatening to “get a shotgun” after someone. Sheriff’s Investigator Nathan Calloway said the area was searched and no one was found. A firearm was never observed.
But inside the courtroom, there were moments of emotion, intense testimony and admonishments from Judge Sherrill about cell phone photography in the courtroom as well as allegations of witness intimidation and name-calling of the young witnesses.
The first witness was a 13-year-old boy who appeared to reverse his statement of being hit “once or twice” and now not remembering if he was hit or not. Prosecuting Attorney Tim Webster asked about the boy’s shirt which read “#P433.”
“It stands for, ‘Pray for Coach West,’” the boy replied. West’s defense attorney Joe White objected to Webster impeaching his own witness, to which Webster replied he was allowed to do.
Other boys, who were in eighth grade at the time, testified that “taking a hit” in the backside was their idea, not West’s. But Webster’s line of questioning indicated that the only one responsible for throwing the baseballs was the only adult member of Silo School staff present during the practice – West himself.
West faces seven counts of felony injury to a minor child and could face up to life in prison if convicted.