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Former coach pleads no contest to battery

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The former Mesa Middle School football coach charged after a scuffle with another coach last fall has pleaded no contest to a charge of battery as part of a plea agreement.

The other charge of disorderly conduct against former assistant football coach Thomas K. Davis was dismissed in the plea deal reached Thursday in Roswell Municipal Court.

Davis received a deferred imposition of sentence on the battery conviction, meaning he will serve no jail time as long as he stays out of trouble for 90 days. Davis must also undergo some anger management counseling.

Davis’ attorney, S. Doug Jones Witt, told the Daily Record the plea agreement was a fair resolution of the case involving two coaches fighting in front of students.

“The impetus behind the change of plea was the city’s willingness to dismiss count 2, which was the disorderly conduct, and the agreement from the city attorney’s office that Mr. Davis would receive a deferred sentence on count 1,” Jones Witt said. “A deferred sentence, upon successful completion of the deferment period, will result in a dismissal ultimately on count 1.

“So, count 2 is dismissed. He pled no contest to count 1 on the battery count in exchange for a deferred sentence, which means that that charge will be dismissed in 90 days, provided that he receives some minimal anger management counseling.”

Davis, who was a regular substitute teacher at the Roswell Independent School District, said he lost his coaching job after the Sept. 5 fight at Mesa Middle School with the school’s head football coach, Gabriel Flores-Delara, who is also a teacher at Mesa Middle School.

After an investigation by the Roswell Police Department, Davis was charged with the misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct. Flores-Delara, 28, was not charged in connection to the incident and continued to coach the Mesa Middle School Panthers the remainder of the 2017 football season.

Jones Witt said the plea agreement was a way to avoid having the middle school students take the witness stand to tell what they witnessed during the altercation.

“Let me tell you something about Mr. Davis, this guy is a good, good man who found himself in some rather extenuating circumstances on the date and time in question,” Jones Witt said. “Mr. Davis didn’t want to put those kids — all his life, all he’s ever done is care about kids — he didn’t want to put the kids involved on the (witness) stand. I mean, I think we had some things to talk about in a proceeding, but I felt, Mr. Davis felt, and thankfully the reasonable people prosecuting for the city of Roswell felt that putting those kids on the stand, cross-examining them, talking about what happened between the coach and Mr. Davis, that’s not good for anybody. And so this resolution of the case allowed us to prevent that, avoid that, and I think Mr. Davis is pleased. I’m pleased and it’s a good outcome I think for everybody.”

Davis, an African-American, said the fight was sparked by the repeated use of the N-word by the football team’s players. He told the RISD school board at a public meeting in September that the use of racial slurs by students on school grounds was out of control. While the scuffle was still underway, Flores-Delara called 911 at about 8:45 p.m. Sept. 5, asking for help, stating Davis was chasing him. In the initial moments of the call, Davis can be heard yelling in the background.

Davis told the Daily Record last fall that the charges of battery and disorderly conduct were a form of retaliation for speaking up about the everyday, casual use of the racial slur on school grounds. Davis on Friday referred all questions to Jones Witt.

“I think it’s difficult for people to understand the impact of words like that on, or other ugly racial slurs, on people of color in our community,” Jones Witt said. “I think our country has made great strides to eliminate discrimination and discriminatory practices, but to say that racism and discrimination doesn’t exist anymore in our society is naive and it’s wrong. There are some words left over from our past, from our history, that young people are using these days that evoke a history that is devastating to some folks in our community. I think it’s difficult unless you are a member of that community to understand how it feels and how it affects that person.”

Davis has admitted to throwing about 15 punches in the fight that took place behind the middle school after a night game at DeBremond Stadium against Berrendo Middle School. Davis said he threw the first punch, after he said he was head-butted by Flores-Delara.

“He pled no contest in court, so he didn’t make any admission to doing anything wrong,” Jones Witt said. “I think we’ve achieved the best outcome for him, but this is a complicated problem and it’s a complicated fact pattern.”

Davis has said he is not a troublemaker, that he just spoke up about the use of the N-word by students, particularly a slang variation of the slur that Davis says has become widely used by today’s students.

“And all of us have a responsibility to make sure that those words are not used, not in passing, not in joking, not ever again because the painful truth in history behind those words is just too devastating,” Jones Witt said. “So, with that said, the use of those words never justify physical violence and I think that Mr. Davis would certainly agree with that statement. However, being exposed to that kind of thing when you are a member of that community can certainly help explain why a person may feel very strongly about something, as I think Mr. Davis did in this case. I’m not saying that that justifies anything he may or may not have done, I’m saying that the use of those words help explain why he found himself in the position that he was in.”

Jones Witt said he was unsure of Davis’ current teaching status.

“The way forward for Mr. Davis and his job with the RISD, I think the ball is in the RISD’s court,” Jones Witt said. “I personally believe he is a real asset as a teacher and a coach to the district. It is my hope that the district will keep him around because I think he is an asset.”

According to a 15-page police report obtained by the Daily Record, a Mesa Middle School student who made a racial slur was suspended from the school. Mesa Middle School school resource officer Laura Macias of the Roswell Police Department reported she had learned the student had been suspended for disorderly conduct, language profanity and misuse, and for using racial slurs.

The police report also reveals that Flores-Delara submitted a notice of assault by Davis to school administration, in which Flores-Delara said he had suffered strikes to his head from Davis.

Editor Jeff Tucker can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at editor@rdrnews.com.