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Darton officials hit with lawsuit from soccer coach

Gary Barnette

Gary Barnette

ALBANY — Darton State College Vice President for Student Affairs Gary Barnette and Athletic Director Mike Keifer are being sued a former Wallace State (Ala.) men’s assistant soccer coach after an alleged incident that occurred in October of last year following an NJCAA Region XVII tournament semifinal game hosted by Darton.

Attorneys for plaintiff David Eskridge filed a complaint in Dougherty Superior Court earlier this month alleging Barnette physically assaulted the Wallace State coach after the game ended 1-0 in Darton’s favor. Keifer, as the college’s AD, is accused of indirectly leading to the assault. Darton and the University System of Georgia are also named as defendants.

“After the match was over (Barnette) physically grabbed my client by the elbow inflicting bodily injury,” Eskridge attorney Robert Margeson III said. “We are going to explore if (Darton) had adequate safety management programs in place to prevent incidents like this. This is really a simple negligence suit.”

The complaint is seeking unspecified punitive damages from Barnette, who denied ever touching Eskridge.

“Things began to get tense with just under 10 minutes remaining when (Wallace State’s) goalie was benched after getting a yellow card,” Barnette said. “We then scored what would be the winning goal off the back-up goalie.”

With 6:08 remaining in the match, the starting goalie re-entered the game and was soon ejected after getting hit with a red card. Moments later, another Wallace State player was also ejected. Barnette said the players were upset and refused to leave the area. Barnette said he called Darton Police to the site because he felt “things were beginning to get out of hand, and we didn’t want to have to arrest the players.”

At that point, Barnette said Eskridge began to get upset.

“We were separated by the field fence. I was on the inside and he was on the outside,” Barnette recalled. “We never got within 10 feet of each other and I never touched him. He was a big guy and I remember being thankful that there were two police officers there.”

No hearing date has been set.