A father who punched his 9-year-old son’s football coach in the face after the team lost a game in North Lakeland in 2019 was sentenced last week to 270 days in jail and 12 months of probation.
The punch Demetri Graham threw as children watched caused William Roberti to receive 27 stitches to his lip. Jurors deliberated for 30 minutes before finding him guilty of battery.
“As soon as the coach turned his head, the defendant sucker punched him,” Assistant State Attorney Craig Leckie told jurors. “The defendant was mad they lost and his son didn’t play.”
Graham, 33, ran from Duff Field after he punched Roberti.
A number of witnesses testified during the trial, including Roberti.
The incident occurred on April 6 after the team lost a game that caused them to miss the playoffs. As Roberti brought the emotional team together for a pep talk afterwards, Graham approached and told them that they “sucked.”
Graham continued, saying that his son should have played because he was better than some of the other players.
“He told some of the kids they were trash,” Roberti said. “As a coach, I couldn’t let that go.”
Roberti, holding an athletic bag, stepped between Graham and some of the children. When he turned his head, Graham struck him in the face.
“I never thought it was going to be violent,” Roberti said. “At no point did I think it was going to be an altercation like that.”
Law enforcement investigated the incident at the field that day.
During the trial, Graham acknowledged that he struck Roberti, but he said that it was a case of self defense because Roberti entered “his personal space.”
After the verdict, Graham’s lawyer asked County Judge Robert Griffin for a sentence of probation.
The judge listened to him and Graham before determining the sentence. Griffin also ordered Graham to pay $1,442 for Roberti’s hospital bills and $101 to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for investigative fees.
State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Polk County Sheriff’s deputies and Assistant State Attorney Leckie for their work on the case.