A 12-year veteran of the coaching staff at Cranston High School East is facing felony charges for allegedly fighting with and punching a 60-year-old man in the parking lot of a local pub hard enough to cause a brain bleed and a stay in intensive care.
Jason Michael Ward, 31, of 781 Park Ave., Cranston, was arraigned in Third Division District Court today on a felony charge of assault on a person aged 60 causing serious bodily injury, and a misdemeanor charge of fighting. He entered no plea to the charges, which is customary for felony arraignments, and will appear in Superior Court on Feb. 14 for a prearrangement disposition conference.
He was released on $2,500 cash bail.
According to a signed affidavit, police responded to Fitzpatrick's Pub on Park Avenue around 9:20 p.m. on Dec. 5 for a report of an assault with a subject knocked out.
The victim, identified as John Litterio, 60, was being treated for a head injury by the fire department. A witness who works at the pub said he was in the parking lot of the pub when Litterio and Ward got into an argument.
The witness "got in the middle of the two of them in an attempt to break it up. At this point Ward struck Litterio with a fist. This punch knocked Litterio over and onto the ground," court records state.
Litterio was transported to Rhode Island Hospital for a head laceration and a swollen right eye. At the hospital, Litterio refused to cooperate with officers and said he didn't want to press charges.
Ward was released "due to a lack of victim cooperation," the affidavit states.
But Litterio changed his mind and on Dec. 10, he told officers at Cranston Police headquarters that he wanted to press charges after he spent the last four days in the hospital due to a brain bleed.
Ward has been a member of the coaching staff since 2000, when he started as a freshman coach. Over the past five or six years he's served as assistant coach, said Ray Votto, chief operating officer for Cranston Public Schools.
Ward's contract with the district was renewed annually by the School Committee and his most recent contract ended at the end of the football season. That means the district doesn't need to consider any immediate action regarding his status with the district.
Votto said had Ward been charged during the football season, he likely would have been placed on leave pending the outcome of the judicial process.
"Obviously, he's not employed right now, but normally, we'd wait until the case has been adjudicated until taking any action," Votto said.
This isn't Ward's first run-in with the law.
In 2007, Ward pleaded no contest to a charge of driving under the influence and was sentenced to one year of probation and 25 hours of community service, and his license was suspended for four months.
A year earlier, he pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and a simple assault charge was dismissed. He served six months of probation.
Votto, who said the district learned of the charges today, said the school district does not get updated BCI checks on employees working for the district, so officials may not be aware of charges filed against an employee — only prior charges at the time of their hiring.
When an employee does have issues with the law, the district reviews the case and applies state guidelines, Votto said. In some cases, if charges are dismissed or a person "works it off" and the charges don't fall under guidelines for immediate termination, they could theoretically not lose their jobs.
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