Case of Newark Little League melee goes to jury

Credit: РNEWARK -ξAfter two weeks of he-said vs. he-said testimony, a jury must decide whether a little league coach who got into a physical altercation with an umpire is responsible for the severe injuries the umpire suffered after as many as 16 unknown assailants joined the fight.

Henry Milstrey is charged in the June 8, 2011 assault on Robert Kevin Waters, the president of the Newark Little League who was umpiring a game between Newark and Irvington in Vailsburg Park.

Both men took the stand during the trial and told opposite stories. Milstrey said he was nothing but polite throughout the game, respectfully asking Waters to call the game on account of it getting dark. Waters said Milstrey was cursing and yelling at him, demanding he end the game.

Milstrey said after the game ended it was Waters who threw the first punch and that he returned a single punch to defend himself. Waters told jurors Milstrey struck first, hitting him and then waved over a group of unknown young men who beat him mercilessly.

Witnesses have corroborated each of the two stories making a the decision more difficult for jurors. Water injuries, which are undisputed, included a fractured skull, missing front teeth and a concussion. He still struggles to hear out of his left ear.

“You have to segregate what they did from what he did,” defense attorney James Lisa said of the unknown assailants. “He’s not responsible for their actions. This trial is about fixing blame. The people who caused the injuries aren’t here.”

Milstrey is the only one charged in the beating.

Assistant Prosecutor Gregg Brown said the proof is in Milstrey’s medical report, which shows he had his hand x-rayed and complained of pain.

“You have one man who hurt his head and one man who hurt his hand,” Brown said in his summation. “Do the math.”

Brown said the fact that Milstrey left the park with his son and his son’s mother before police arrived is suggestive of his guilt.

“A big part of the reason (the 16 assailants) aren’t here today is because Mr. Milstrey didn’t stick around,” Brown said.

The trial has been attended faithfully by Milstrey’s family. Both Waters, who is still league president, and Milstrey, who privately coaches young players in the area, share an interest in baseball and youth counseling.

Milstrey faces up to 10 years if convicted of aggravated assault.