Ump, 72, files lawsuit after being hospitalized by punch at youth baseball game
BRANCHBURG — The 72-year-old umpire who suffered a broken jaw and concussion at a youth baseball game has filed a lawsuit against the parent-coach charged with punching him.
James Neely was officiating a 13U baseball game at White Oak Park in Branchburg on June 4 when a coach for a visiting Staten Island team began cursing at him with "extensive profanity" in front of the young players, according to the lawsuit.
The civil complaint said Neely ejected the coach, identified as Jerry Otero, 40, of Staten Island. In response, the parent-coach punched Neely "without warning or justification."
Otero is charged with aggravated assault and assault at a youth sports event. Acting Somerset County Prosecutor Annmarie Taggart said Otero fled from the scene before police arrived but turned himself in over two weeks later.
"Our focus has to be the kids," Neely said in a statement. "We need to ensure that youth sports remain a place for them to learn and grow in a safe environment. I hope to be out there on the field one day soon for the kids."
Along with Otero, the lawsuit names the New York Prospects, the Prospects' president Frank Cambria, and the US Amateur Baseball League, which ran the tournament that day. The Prospects is a non-profit that operates youth baseball teams in Staten Island.
Neely is also suing the parents of the Staten Island team, who have not yet been identified. The lawsuit claimed that the parents encouraged the assault by yelling at Neely and taunting him after the punch.
At least one parent was heard saying that Neely "got what he deserved,” according to the suit.
Neely had remained unnamed until his attorney, Andrew O'Conner, announced the lawsuit on Tuesday.
"People's behavior at youth travel sports have become completely out of control," O'Conner said. "Now we will seek justice for Mr. Neely in the courts, and make sure the kids at all sport events are protected."