Last summer an umpire at a youth baseball game in Branchburg was assaulted by a parent-coach who became enraged by some of the balls and strikes being called.

The 72-year-old ump suffered a concussion and a broken jaw that had to be wired shut.

This and several other recent incidents at children’s sporting events have convinced Assemblyman Raj Mukherji D-Hudson, to sponsor measure A444, which would upgrade criminal penalties for anyone attacking a sports official.

Increase in violence in youth sports

He said there has been a recent alarming uptick in violent incidents and negativity directed toward coaches, referees and umpires at youth sporting events.

“When you’re attacking someone physically and violently in front of all the children we’re supposed to be role models for, I think that that’s offense to an extra degree.”

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He said the bill is meant to protect sports officials, including anybody serving as a referee, umpire, timer, scorer, coach, athletic trainer, manager, or assistant.

“If they are assaulted at a school or community-sponsored youth sports event while performing their duties, instead of that being charged as simple assault it can be charged as aggravated assault,” he said.

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Aggravated assault in New Jersey is a third-degree crime, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

A lesser penalty for a verbal assault

If the attack does not result in bodily injury the assault would be upgraded to a crime of the fourth degree, punishable by up to 18 months behind bars and a fine of up to $10,000.

“We don’t take lightly the decision to upgrade a criminal offense, people’s contacts with the criminal justice system," he said. "But if you’re going to act like that you’re absolutely sending the wrong message.”

Low angle view of baseball players standing in a huddle with their coach
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We're trying to teach our kids values

He added youth sports is supposed to be about teamwork and values that will help kids build character and they should not have to be subjected to disturbing and violent behavior by an adult.

The measure has been passed by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and could be considered by the full Assembly in the coming weeks.

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