published Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Gordon County sheriff accused of cursing and threatening coach at kids baseball game

EXPLICIT LANGUAGE WARNING: Sheriff Ralston Police Report
EXPLICIT LANGUAGE WARNING: Sheriff Ralston Police Report

All across America, this scene plays out: One youth league baseball coach accuses another of cheating. The coaches argue. Then, one threatens the other.

Except in the latest edition of national pastime pettiness, the man accused of spitting threats has the power to back it up. He's Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston.

Versions of what actually happened are split across team lines. Sonoraville Red Sox players and parents said they heard Ralston threaten to arrest the other coach, Steven Lee Cornette. Ralston and parents of Calhoun Braves players, meanwhile, say this never happened. They say the other side misunderstood the sheriff.

Either way, Cornette filed a complaint with the Calhoun Police Department after the June 2 game between his Red Sox and Ralston's Braves. Ralston said Tuesday the police closed the investigation and won't charge him with disorderly conduct or making terroristic threats.

Calhoun police chief Garry Moss confirmed the investigation has been closed.

What started all this? A dispute about baseball bats used by kids 13 and 14 years old. During the game, Cornette told the umpire that Ralston's team was using bats that were too powerful for their age group.

In fact, the bats were approved, but Cornette continued to protest throughout the game. He said the sheriff tried to intimidate him, calling him a string of colorful curse words.

The teams shook hands after the Braves won 7-2, but Cornette ignored Ralston. He says the sheriff then threatened to arrest him. Some of the parents and players say they heard the same thing.

"He said it in front of all us kids: 'Your [expletive] is mine," said a 13-year-old Red Sox player.

Ralston's assistant coach, David Carroll, said they didn't hear the sheriff correctly. He said Ralston told Cornette, "Kiss my [expletive]" after the coach accosted him. Then, Ralston said, Cornette followed him to his car.

When later asked about the incident by police, Ralston said he gave Cornette another warning: "I have a place for you."

Aleshia Rutledge, whose son plays on Ralston's team, said Cornette heckled her son during the game. Scott Fletcher, another parent, said Cornette's version of events was overblown. He said Ralston remained calm when Cornette threatened him.

When Carroll got to his car after Ralston left, he noticed he was parked next to Cornette. He says he could hear Cornette telling his wife to get his gun out of the car.

"My jaw just dropped," Carroll said.

Cornette says this happened, but that he always keeps a gun on him when he's not on the baseball field. He wasn't going to attack anybody.

The teams are scheduled for a rematch next Tuesday night.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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