UPDATE: Ex-congressman, youth-league coach drop complaints

By Shelia Byrd/The Associated Press

MADISON — A former Mississippi congressman and a youth soccer coach have dropped assault complaints against each other after a scuffle last month.

Ex-congressman Chip Pickering and coach Chris Hester accused each other of simple assault after a Dec. 6 soccer game for 10- and 11-year-old boys. Pickering’s son was playing Hester’s team.

Hester claimed Pickering yelled at him, pulled him out of his vehicle and struck him. Pickering said the coach had verbally abused his son and claimed he was defending himself from the coach.

Municipal Judge Dale Danks on Tuesday agreed to a request from both men to drop the complaints, but he criticized the men for their actions.

“You’re old enough to know the occurrence that took place on Dec. 6 turned out to be a very embarrassing situation,” Danks said. “As far as I’m concerned you both were at fault.”

Pickering, speaking outside the courtroom, said he wanted to avoid a trial in which youth would be called to testify.

“I regret very much the entire episode. What we’ve learned is there is a better way to do this. I hope we can go from here and set a better example,” said Pickering, a Republican who served 12 years in the U.S. House before deciding not to run for re-election in 2008.

Hester said he still plans to file a civil lawsuit against Pickering. At the time of the incident, Hester was wearing a neck brace for a previous medical condition.

Hester will seek damages for medical expenses and time lost on his job, said his attorney, Mac McCool.

Hester also said he agreed to drop the charge because he didn’t want to involve children in the court proceedings, but he maintained he was not to blame.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. The truth will come out,” Hester said.

Hester will keep his position as a coach the South Madison County Soccer League, said McCool.