RAPID CITY, S.D. A Valley City State basketball player will be charged with assault for throwing an elbow that gave a
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology player a concussion and 14 stitches, a prosecutor says.
Investigators are still working on a report in the case, said
Pennington County state's attorney Glenn Brenner said, and he will
wait until it is finished before filing a charge of simple assault
against Matt Klabo of Garrison, N.D.
Simple assault is a Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The charge could be filed
Brenner said he made up his mind after seeing videotape of the Friday night incident in a game between Tech and Valley City State
of North Dakota.
"I've seen the tape. There will be charges. That's 100 percent," he said. "Unequivocally, there will be charges. I
believe it indicates very clear assault."
Brenner said it will be the first time he has filed an assault charge from an athletic contest. The videotape will be the key
piece of evidence, he said.
"We're fortunate in this particular case because a jury will be able to make an independent determination based on a videotape," Brenner said. "It's a luxury we don't have in other cases."
With about 11 minutes left in the Tech-Valley City State game, Klabo, a 6-foot-7 senior, hit 6-8 Tech senior Korey Kirschenmann in the face with his elbow. Kirschenmann fell to the floor and received a concussion and a gash below his left eye.
Initially, Tech officials said Kirschenmann received 27 stitches. On Wednesday, Coach Hugh Welsh told the Rapid City Journal the player actually had 14 stitches.
Klabo was tagged with a flagrant foul and was ejected.
In a statement Wednesday, Valley City State officials said they "deeply regret" the incident. Cory Anderson, the school's sports information director, said Valley City State is cooperating with Tech, Dakota Athletic Conference Commissioner LaVern Jessen and police in Rapid City.
Tech won the Friday contest 83-65.
Welsh has said the elbow was the most blatant foul he had seen in 33 years of coaching.
He said Kirschenmann was attending class but suffers headaches and was upset at the way his senior season ended. He was not able
to play in a playoff game Tuesday, which Tech lost.
Welsh said he could not comment further on the prosecutor's decision.
"It's a horrid deal, that's all I can say,'' he said.
Valley City State coach Adam DeHaan and athletic director Doug Peters refused comment.
Dan Hodgson of Wahpeton, N.D., the father of Valley City State player Dustin Hodgson, said he was shocked that Brenner would file
a criminal charge.
"It's a shocker. I'm disappointed," said Dan Hodgson. "I hope they take into account all the events that led up to it."
Hodgson said Klabo made a bad mistake in throwing the elbow. But he and other Valley City fans said Klabo was reacting after
Kirschenmann hit him in the face with the basketball.
Welsh said that might have happened.
"He might have, I don't know. You're trying to create space,'' he said.
But even if that occurred, it was unintentional and didn't merit such a vicious response, the Tech coach said.
Referee Jim Phillips of Deadwood said Kirschenmann clearly hit Klabo with the ball. But Phillips determined it was accidental.
"Everybody in the gym saw that," Phillips said. "I determined it wasn't a blatant act."
Phillips said he has refereed games that Kirschenmann played for the past four years at Tech and previously at Rapid City Central.
Kirschenmann has "a history of not being that kind of player,"
the official said.
Klabo had been ejected from a game against Dakota State University in Madison for throwing an elbow. But Hodgson said it is
unfair and inaccurate to label Klabo a troublemaker.
Brenner said simple assault was the strongest charge he could make. Aggravated assault, a felony, requires "grave injury"
beyond what Kirschenmann suffered, he said.
The prosecutor said he expects Klabo to return willingly to face charges.