As Law&Crime reported late last year, Owsley County Sheriff Brent Lynch was said to have been arrested by his own deputies after allegedly hitting a girl while serving as an assistant coach for Owsley County High School.
However, “several witnesses testified it did not happen,” Lynch’s lawyer told Law&Crime in a post-acquittal email.
The alleged assault occurred during an underlying fight on Dec. 3, 2021, at the Perry County Central High School, according to the Kentucky State Police.
The two oddly shaped counties in question — Perry and Owsley — barely share a few miles of border on their western and eastern sides, respectively. Both are close to two hours southeast of Lexington.
The mid-game melee was caught on video; however, as Law&Crime’s Colin Kalmbacher noted at the time, the recording was at relevant points “hectic, chaotic and difficult to decipher.”
Our original report explains:
In the footage, however, the fight is clearly precipitated by an on-court dispute over a loose ball situation and/or foul. Several members of each time quickly square up and devolve into a mass of squabbling individuals. Moments later, the man identified as Lynch comes running into the midst of the melee from off the court and jumps right in.
A few brief seconds that happened next were in dispute at a recent bench trial. Some reports suggested that the alleged contact was a punch; the Associated Press reported in January 2022 that Lynch was accused of “hitting” or having “struck” a girl while “trying to break up a fight.”
After the ruckus, Lynch reportedly took off through a gymnasium door, and state troopers said they were, as of the date of a Dec. 8 press release, still trying to locate him.
Lynch was charged with one count of fourth-degree assault, the state police indicated. The sheriff turned himself in after a warrant was issued; he was subsequently detained in the Three Forks Regional Jail in Lee County, Kentucky.
One player from each team — the Perry Central Lady Commodores and the Owsley County Lady Owls — was ejected from the contest, Perry County Schools Superintendent Jonathan Jett said in a statement.
Owsley County School District Superintendent Dr. Tim Bobrowski said one of his district’s assistant coaches was suspended for one game and that “both teams have suspended 4 student athletes for 2 games.”
Bobrowski cited the Kentucky High School Athletic Association as the source of the suspension orders, but the KHSAA said that wasn’t entirely true. A statement by the organization suggests its rules govern student conduct, not “adult conduct.”
In an email to Law&Crime, Kenneth A. Buckle, Lynch’s Hyden, Kentucky-based attorney, said that Perry District Court Special Judge Gary Salyers acquitted his client on Oct. 28 of this year.
According to Buckle’s email, Gwen Lawson alleged that Lynch punched her daughter. The genesis of the overall fight, according to Buckle’s retelling of Lawson’s allegation, was that Lynch’s daughter, who played for Owsley County, “got into an altercation” with Lawson’s child, a Perry County player who was on her home court. That alleged contretemps ended when “the defendant intervened and punched K.L. [Lawson’s child] in the face with his fist, causing physical injury to K.L.,” Buckle wrote, again citing not the facts but rather the accusations.
Special Judge Salyers tried the case because Judge Cody Goehring recused “due to a conflict,” Buckle said.
“The only witnesses who testified the assault occurred were Gwen Lawson and her daughter, K.L.,” Buckle continued. “Despite the alleged assault occurring in a crowded high school gym with well more than one-hundred people in attendance, the prosecution could not produce any eyewitnesses who saw the alleged assault.”
“Numerous witnesses testified on behalf of Sheriff Lynch, including Perry Central staff, three referees, two police officers, and the head coach of the Owsley County girls’ basketball team, along with Sheriff Lynch himself,” Buckle went on. “All the witnesses could not corroborate the allegation of assault, and several witnesses testified it did not happen.”
The defense attorney said the judge “reviewed numerous videos of the incident and pictures of K.L.,” but those materials were apparently not persuasive.
Prosecutors have to prove criminal cases beyond a reasonable doubt, and here, Buckle suggested, there was plenty of doubt on the core facts of the matter.
“Sheriff Lynch is pleased to be absolved of any wrongdoing,” Buckle’s email concluded. “He has maintained his innocence throughout the entire case. The initial reporting of this case and the past eleven months have caused considerable pain for both he and his family. Sheriff Lynch also extends his appreciation and gratitude to the witnesses who came forward and testified on his behalf at trial.”
[image via Owsley County Sheriff’s Office]
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