Plea Deal in Ref Assault Case

A Bellevue man changed his plea on Monday regarding a case where he confronted the referee of a church league basketball game featuring middle-school students.

Just before it went to trial inside Douglas County courtroom 27, Joseph Stephans told the judge he changed his plea to No Contest for the misdemeanor assault and battery charge.

"I want to make sure I put this behind me for all of us..the witnesses and the children," he told Channel 6 News after the court hearing.

The case goes back to February when he was ticketed by police for assaulting a middle-school church league basketball referee at St. Margaret Mary.

At the time, Carlos Bradford -- the referee in question -- showed us his broken glasses.

Stephans felt the referee was putting the boys in danger by not calling a cleaner game -- and told him as much. After he broke the ref's glasses, the two fought in front of all the parents.

"I want to make sure folks know this is not my normal character," said Stephans. "I want people to know this is a safety issue."

Carlos Bradford calls this is an example of the many parents out there who take their children's sports too far. "I'm not trying to ruin this guy's life. I'm trying to make a point that other parents and other fans and coaches -- let the kids know the violent things are unacceptable. Period. No matter what. It was totally inexcusable."

Joseph Stephans admits he handled his anger poorly and regrets the confrontation. "I apologize to the fans and to Mr. Bradford."

But at the same time, the Bellevue parent believes the referee brought it on by his own actions that day.

"Even if I did egg him on," said Bradford, "There's no reason for you to put your hands on me. Period."

As part of the plea -- if the suspect pays for the referee's glasses -- the state won't ask for jail time.

The referee says he's okay with that.

Otherwise, misdemeanor assault and battery carries up to a year in jail.

Stephans will be sentenced May 30 by Judge Craig McDermott.

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