Ex-congressman, soccer coach post bond

MADISON — A former congressman who faces a misdemeanor assault charge after a fight with a youth-league soccer coach says he’s willing to resolve the issue outside of a courtroom.

Republican former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering and Chris Hester, a nurse who was wearing a neck brace at the time of the incident, each posted $500 bonds on simple assault charges Wednesday, stemming from a scrap after a weekend soccer match.

Later at his attorney’s office, Pickering said he wanted to resolve the issue without lawyers.

“I’m willing to sit down with Mr. Hester at any point, any place, resolve this, shake hands and set a good example for the kids on the teams of the soccer league,” Pickering said. “Instead of lawyer-to-lawyer, I’d like it to be man-to-man, shake hands and move on.”

Pickering said he “hated what happened,” but he didn’t regret defending his son Sunday at Liberty Park in Madison.

Hester, 38, coaches a South Madison County Soccer League team for 10- and 11-year-olds that played against Pickering’s son’s team. Hester has said Pickering attacked him after the soccer match by pulling him from vehicle and striking him. Hester, who underwent surgery a few weeks ago, said he was wearing the neck brace when the fight occurred.

Hester says he has numerous witnesses who can support his claims.

“If he wants to sit down, we can have a sit down. But I can’t guarantee anything can be resolved from it because of the way he’s slandering my name. I don’t appreciate it,” Hester said.

He added, “Funny, he wants to put the burden on me to stand up and be a man, but what kind of man attacks a man in a neck brace?”

Attorney Mac McCool, who represents Hester, said Pickering’s lawyers hadn’t contacted him about resolving the issue.

Pickering’s version is that he approached Hester and told him not to verbally abuse his son. Pickering said Hester then got out of his vehicle and assaulted him.

Pickering said Hester’s team had lost two games. Pickering said the coach called his son “pathetic” because the boy jumped on the back of one of Hester’s players after the game. The two players were friends and they were horse-playing, Pickering said.

Madison Police Master Sgt. Robert Sanders says the men were given Jan. 14 court dates after the two filed misdemeanor simple assault charges against each other. The charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and $500 fine.

Sanders said investigators turned their report in to Municipal Judge Dale Danks on Tuesday, and Danks issued the arrest warrants.

Pickering chose not to seek re-election in 2008. He left office in January and joined the Jackson-based lobbying firm Capitol Resources LLC. One of Gov. Haley Barbour’s nephews is a partner in the firm. The firm lists Pickering as a member of its Washington and Mississippi teams.

Pickering and his wife, Leisha, filed for divorce in 2008. In July, Leisha Pickering sued a Jackson woman, claiming Chip Pickering had an affair with the woman that ruined the Pickerings’ marriage and derailed his political career.

“All the divorce issues have been resolved,” Chip Pickering’s attorney, Mike Malouf, said Wednesday. He said the judge has not yet signed the divorce decree.

Shelia Byrd/The Associated Press