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School Football Player's Helmet Assault May Be Criminal

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By Betty Wang, JD on September 11, 2013 1:17 PM

Police in Lebanon County, PA, are currently in the middle of an investigation of a possible criminal assault involving a football helmet, reports The Associated Press.

Video footage allegedly showed high school football quarterback Joey Cominsky pulling the helmet off lineman Josh Hartman, and then using the helmet to hit him at least twice. Cominsky was on the opposing team. Hartman sustained a cut on the top of his head, but is otherwise fine.

The high schools plan to handle this matter internally, but can any actual charges be filed against Cominsky?

Assault in Pennsylvania

The definition of assault will vary by state, but assault generally contains the same elements. Pennsylvania splits assault into two categories, based on severity: simple assault and aggravated assault.

In relevant part, simple assault exists when the defendant:

  • intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly
  • attempts to cause bodily injury to another person.

Aggravated assault occurs when the defendant causes serious bodily injury to the victim and shows an extreme indifference to human life.

Depending on what details the police investigation may turn up, Cominsky could be found guilty of either type of assault.

Cominsky's Possible Defenses, Off the Field

There are several defenses available in assault cases, and a few may be applicable to Cominsky.

Self-defense is a common defense used in assault cases. If Cominsky can establish that Hartman was, in some way, threatening improper force against him and that he had to act out of a real fear, then he may have a valid justification for self-defense.

Consent is another defense used when there's possible assault. A judge or jury may be convinced that Hartman, for some reason, consented to getting his helmet taken off and hit with it, which could let Cominsky off the hook.

However, both these situations seem a little unlikely given the currently alleged facts.

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