An independent hearing officer has overturned the eight-month suspension of Russell County High baseball coach and teacher Tony Rasmus.
The decision is the latest in a nearly year-long legal saga that began after Rasmus was accused of choking one of his players on February 16, 2021.
It is unclear when or if Rasmus will return to work at the school. That could be decided soon, though.
“At this point, the school board can either allow him to come back and teach or appeal to the Civil Court of Appeals, and it will go there and we will continue to fight him,” said James McKoon, of Rasmus. attorney.
In October, a jury found Rasmus not guilty of third-degree assault in the case – the verdict a county judge returned in a bench trial in June. The jury found Rasmus guilty of a lesser charge of harassment.
In an order written last week, Rasmus was sentenced to 30 days in jail (though that was suspended in favor of 12 months unsupervised probation), a $500 fine, a $100 payment to the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Board and the completion of an anger management program.
McKoon said the $500 fine was reduced to $50 on Friday after an appeal.
“I believe my client,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 44 years. I could be wrong, but I believe in him. I think he’s right, and I think it’s stupid all along.
After the October trial, Russell County Superintendent Brenda Coley recommended Rasmus’s dismissal. However, the school board denied the request for an unpaid suspension until June 30. On Friday, retired Alabama Supreme Court Justice Terry Butts overturned that stay.
Where’s the deal now?
“I understand the school board will have a meeting on Tuesday night and maybe decide what they want to do,” McKoon said. “I’m not going to insist that he return to work on Monday. I will give them the opportunity to decide what they want to do. But until that order is suspended or rescinded, the suspension is no longer in place and he has the right to return to work. Anyway, that’s my interpretation.”
Rasmus burst into the limelight coaching a Phenix City Little League team to a second-place finish in the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Penn., in 1999.
As Russell County head coach, he led the Warriors to over 400 wins and to the Class 5A state championship in 2005. He then moved to Florence in 2014 and led the Falcons to 25 wins and the 6A playoffs.
Rasmus left Florence after a year to return to Russell County and regularly hosts one of the best baseball programs in the state.
“They (Russell County School Board) will have to decide if they want to continue to pay money to take the case to the civil appeals court,” McKoon said. “What would be even better would be if they sat down and talked to us and just came to some sort of compromise and settled this so that this man could finish his career.”
Rasmus, who has 590 career wins, released the statement on AL.com.
“You know, while tough for sure, smothering people was never one of my training strategies over the years. It was a personal witch hunt by a wealthy family who didn’t like for his son to be removed from a game. Phenix City was one of the most corrupt cities in Alabama. Not much has changed.
Coley did not immediately respond to an email on Friday seeking comment on the situation.