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Ohio State coach who tackled fan might not have legal defense, despite lack of protocol

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Ohio Stadium event staff escort away Anthony Wunder, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering, who attempted to rush onto the field during a game against Cincinnati on Sept. 27. OSU won, 50-28. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

Ohio Stadium event staff escort away Anthony Wunder, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering, who attempted to rush onto the field during a game against Cincinnati on Sept. 27. OSU won, 50-28. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

The Ohio State coach who used physical force against a student who bolted onto the field during a football game might not have any legal defenses for his actions, a law professor said.

Even so, there is no set protocol for handling the “rare” occurrence when an individual dashes onto the field mid-play, a University Police official said.

The student, identified as Anthony James Wunder, a 21-year-old studying mechanical engineering, ran onto the field during a game against Cincinnati at Ohio Stadium on Sept. 27.

Wunder has been charged with criminal trespassing — a misdemeanor of the fourth degree — said Lara Baker-Morrish, the chief prosecutor for the Columbus City Attorney.

Fourth-degree misdemeanors have a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and/or a $250 fine, Baker-Morrish said in an email.

Wunder’s attorney pleaded not guilty at his court date on behalf of Wunder on Tuesday and has demanded his right to a speedy trial before a jury.

The case has been assigned to Judge H. William Pollitt for a pre-trial hearing to be held on Oct. 16, Baker-Morrish said.

Although the outcome of the case has yet to be decided, the fact that Wunder was tackled by an OSU football coach — former linebacker and current assistant strength and conditioning coach Anthony Schlegel — instead of a police or security officer could potentially mean legal repercussions.

Last Monday, OSU football coach Urban Meyer said he had a somewhat-serious conversation with Schlegel about the incident. Though he said he hadn’t seen the video, Meyer also said the team took the incident lightly.

“We had a lot of fun in here with that,” Meyer said. “They love Schlegel, as we all do. I do. He’s an incredible person.”

Schlegel has since turned down a request for an interview with The Lantern.

What should have happened?

“There’s no specific protocol, but we are there to enforce the rules of the stadium,” said Captain Eric Whiteside of University Police, about the procedures to be taken when a fan enters the playing field of a sporting event.

While “there’s no protocol saying if this happens, thou shall do this,” the police officers present are at the discretion of the athletic department to maintain security, he said.

As for who is responsible to take control in a situation such as fan coming onto a field or a person jumping on the stage at a concert, Whiteside said there are other people besides police who help provide security as well, including security personnel and event staff.

Whiteside said he could not disclose how many police officers are present during games at Ohio Stadium because it’s “sensitive information” that they (police) do not typically release.

However, he did confirm that police officers are present on the actual football field.

What legal action could be taken?

Wunder has already been charged for trespassing onto the field, but there could perhaps be legal measures taken on his behalf as well.

As of Wednesday, Wunder’s attorney, Mark Collins, said it wasn’t clear if Wunder would take legal action against Schlegel.

“My focus is to resolve the criminal case and then whatever route he chooses,” Collins said.

There are two ways to look at this situation from a legal standpoint, said Ric Simmons, a professor at OSU’s Moritz College of Law.

“From a criminal law perspective, (Schlegel) is clearly not authorized to make an arrest.” Simmons said. “The person was committing a misdemeanor, not a felony. It’s not his job to potentially stop crime as it was for the security guards or for the police.” He added that a citizen doesn’t necessarily have the same defenses as police officers. “If the police officer had used force making the arrest, the police officer has a defense. A security guard has a defense,” Simmons said.

“There’s just no real defense that (Schlegel) was there to potentially enforce the law,” Simmons said.

The other way of looking at it would be from a tort law perspective — whether Wunder could sue Schlegel for using excessive force, Simmons said.

“The question there is simply, were his actions reasonable in the circumstances?” Simmons said. “That’s going to be up to a jury to decide.”

Without knowing all the facts of the case, Simmons said he could not predict what the outcome of a potential trial would be. However, he said one of the factors discussed would probably be whether Wunder would have gotten away if Schlegel hadn’t taken action, which Simmons said “seems unlikely.”

A jury would also probably discuss how much force was actually applied, Simmons said. Although Simmons said he thought it looked like “a pretty hard hit,” it’s difficult to say because Wunder was not severely injured, so it could have looked more forceful that it actually was.

The video of the incident has since gone viral, with more than 7 million views on Lantern TV’s YouTube video as of Sunday evening.

Simmons said the fact that the incident was caught on video would hopefully help the case from the court’s perspective, because the jury won’t have to just rely on descriptions or re-enactments of what happened.

“Whether that will help one side or another, in this case, I don’t know. It depends on what the jury thinks about it, but I think they will have a better idea of what actually happened based on the fact that there was a video of it,” Simmons said.

The Office of Legal Affairs has a website dedicated to information regarding lawsuits filed against university employees. It details what an employee has to do to be sued individually.

“The Court of Claims statute requires that for a university employee to be sued individually in state court that the employee must either have: (a) acted outside the scope of their university duties, or (b) acted with malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner,” the website states.

From his understanding, Simmons said he did not think Schlegel was acting within his university duties.

“There are people employed to deal with that kind of situation,” he said.

Similar situations in the past

Fans have entered the field at Ohio Stadium in mass after several games in the past to celebrate with the team, but Whiteside said there haven’t been recent instances involving a single person.

“In terms of someone in the middle of the game running across the center of the field, I think it’s been probably about two decades since that’s happened before, or at least I don’t have any knowledge of that happening in recent time,” he said.

Although a fan has not been charged with trespassing onto the field at OSU recently, one was charged in Auburn, Ala., last season after the Iron Bowl game between Auburn and Alabama, according to AL.com, an Alabama news site.

The fan, Britt Thomas, was found guilty of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, but a charge of criminal trespassing was dropped, AL.com said.

In this case, other fans did rush the field following the win, but Thomas was instructed to go back in the stands by a deputy.

“Thomas said a deputy hurt him, causing abrasions from his armpit to pelvic area. He was also pinned to the ground and Thomas said five deputies refused to provide him medical treatment,” the article said.

Thomas’s attorney, Julian McPhillips, claimed the deputies used excessive force when attempting to detain Thomas, the article said.

As for Wunder’s case, Simmons said it remains to be seen what will happen.

“A lot of it is going to come down to the facts of how hard was that hit and, at that point, whether or not it was reasonable to do that under the circumstances,” Simmons said.

33 comments

  1. Good for the coach!! Should have hit him harder. I’m sure the student’s mommy and daddy will try to rescue him with a lot of money, but no amount can save stupid. If you want to carry it even further, maybe homeland security can get involved. Suck it up mommas boy–you did a stupid thing and got your butt kicked—that’s the way life goes!

  2. It’s sad to think there are legal repercussions to excersizing one’s civic duty.

  3. Here, here Richard! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Now the lawyers decide what ‘should have happened’ as opposed to using common sense. God help us all. I think Anthony used restraint. I read where the ‘scholar’ had done this before at a basketball game. At first I felt sorry for the kid for being excessively punished for being stupid. Now, I see he’s chronic stupid who doesn’t learn his lesson. Exile him to Michigan – that will teach him a lesson.

  4. “Fans have entered the field at Ohio Stadium in mass….” I believe the term is “en masse” [in a mass; all together; as a group]; I don’t think it has anything to do with a religious service, although some believe OSU Football is ‘a religion’…. 😉

  5. typical response by the law school professor. that is problem with legal system. guy does something clearly wrong but now can sue.

  6. Wouldn’t it be something like a “citizen’s arrest”?

  7. There was no possible way to know for certain beforehand what this person’s intent was in being on the field. The only clear fact was that he had no legitimate reason for being on the field.

    By all means, take him down. Take him down hard. Show the crazies that this field, OUR field, is safe for our players, fans, and the community.

    See something, say something — or in this case, do something.

    I say, “Thanks, Coach. Well done.”

  8. The saddest part of this story is only attorneys will make out with another frivilous payday in this situation. No jury in Columbus, the state of Ohio or anywhere with any degree of common sense would convict Schlagel. But attorneys for both sides will go home with another pay check. Got to love our legal system devised by attorneys for attorneys. Rediculous.

  9. Appropriate Action

    As a representative member of the staff of Ohio State, Coach was protecting the team members by tackling the person. Perhaps he could show his technique to the Secret Service?

  10. Comments on this thread seem to come from a worryingly Draconian perspective. What about fun? It’s fun when someone runs onto the field. Doesn’t have to spark outrage! It’s not like the airport bag check line….just a little diversion from the gridiron action.

    People of ze wurl, relax!

  11. If you think it is ‘fun’ Paul K, go back and read the imitial reactions of the kids at VTech or the shootings at the University of Texas at Austin in the 1960’s.

    People thought they were pranks or part of a cleaning crew. How long do you wait?

    It is fun right up until the point in time the idiot pulls a gun and starts shooting.

    Here is my suggestion…we appoint you the 1st one to the scene. Then, if the person is a shooter or wants to behead you, we can say nice things about you at your funeral.

    The professor is wrong…..people need not wait until they are hurt as long as there exits a reasonable fear. The fool student already showed his contempt for others…..

    Good luck at the point….remember, we will say nice things about you after you’re gone.

    Coach did the right thing. You and the law professors are what Lenin called “useful idiots”.

  12. It was a stupid college thing he did running onto the field, but I don’t think lawyers should have to be involved in it. I suppose now OSU will have to announce before all sports games about staying off the field and what law it breaks. Also, that might not have been the coach’s job to do that, but it wasn’t that student’s job at a Wasington State school to bring down that shooter, but he did and saved lives. This country has become far too involved into running to lawyers for everything, especially when the defendant is definitely in the wrong. He chose to do this, and 2 times!! I wonder what his parents said to him about all this? Seems like he is looking for attention. Instead of a month in jail, perhaps banning him from games for 30 days might be better and if it happens again, a lifetime ban.

  13. We are constantly warned by the media, by law enforcement agencies.. in our public places, in our schools, in our churches, in our neighborhoods — to be watchful and vigilant to notice if anyone is acting suspiciously or out of the ordinary. A person running down a football field in the middle of play certainly meets this criteria. Who is to say if he was armed with a deadly weapon, or a device to cause bodily damage to someone ( a vile of acid, a needle contaminated by a virus or HIV, etc.). What if he made a motion to reach for something under his jacket, putting security and police in the situation to have to make a split second decision as to whether to use weapons and force to neutralize his actions that would have put others in danger? The only one and thing out of place, was Wunder “boy’s” obvious and extraordinary behavior. If Wunder has any sense of decency and respect for his university, his classmates, his teachers, the football team, the tradition , as well as appreciation for his scholarships, his reaction should be to put an end to any further stress in this matter and to simply acknowledge his ill-behavior, apologize, and assure that he will not pursue a frivolous lawsuit. That will at least in part redeem him and preserve him for some good will in the future as he enters into the job market. Mr. Wunder, man-up and put an end to this. Earn back some respect.

  14. I’m no lawyer (dodged a bullet,) so I can’t be certain, but it seems to me that the “was [Schlegel] acting in the scope of his duties” question is highly dependent on what he was reacting to, including the fact that the kid on the field had broken several well-publicized rules to get to where he was, and appeared to have no intention of cooperating with anyone in charge. And, ORC 2305.402 talks specifically in terms of doing things that are “likely” to cause serious injury, and it’s pretty easy to make the argument that Schlegel, as a guy who professionally tackles human beings and teaches other people to do the same, is uniquely qualified to tackle someone safely and in a way that he knows won’t cause them serious injury.

    Plus, I mean, really. How much do you suppose OSU would have to pay to a referee or opposing player who was attacked and injured by someone from the stands? And would we all be on the internet saying “geez, there were a hundred or more giant current and former football players that stood by and did nothing!!!”?

    (Without an actual documented injury, it’s also really hard to prevail in civil court. So far this kid [actually a legal adult] has only clearly suffered from stuff that is directly related to his stupid choice to jump onto the field – any kind of emotional damage, for example, or loss of scholarship, is attributable to the publicity that was easy to predict from his behavior; a halfway decent lawyer should be able to argue quite convincingly that the guy may have deliberately done it for the LOLZ and attention, given the fifty-plus year history of “morons running onto the field” leading to “being on the cover of newspapers the next day.”)

  15. OK this “college” article was too long. Thought I was reading the Wash Post! hahaha He had no business on that field. OSU should pay any legal bills! End of story……

  16. Take into account that this kid ran on the field during a live play – which provides a dangerous distraction to the players who noticed him. I think it would have been a different story had he ran out onto the field when the clock wasn’t running. If he tries to sue the university or Schlegel, he’s a bigger jerk than I originally thought. Schlegel was out there defending his kids out on the field from this kid’s moronic and selfish actions.

  17. I think it’ll be funny when Coach Roid-rage gets a civil suit slapped on him. “Protecting his kids”? How funny. If OSU’s overgrown man-children need protecting from a mechanical engineering student, the world is lost. “Didn’t know his intent”? Puh-leeeeeze. I’m sure the 108,000 people in the stadium saw this kid and didn’t immediately think, “ISIS! LONE SHOOTER! DOMESTIC TERRORIST!” The biggest threat he posed was taking off his clothes and streaking.

    Coach Schlegel overreacted. Coach Schlegel will get to pay for his overreaction. Do your job, coach. Let security…you know…the ones that were about to apprehend Wunder…do THEIR job.

    Good job, Coach Dyanabol.

  18. As an alumnus, I agree with you Shark. It was overreaction by Schlegel and totally not his duty. Coaches coach and cops arrest. Not only that, if Wunder did have a weapon, Schlegel unnecessarily put himself and potentially others in danger while running at and tackling Wunder. Not too bright. I would say Wunder has a good case according to the Office of Legal Affairs statute: “The Court of Claims statute requires that for a university employee to be sued individually in state court that the employee must either have: (a) acted outside the scope of their university duties, or (b) acted with malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner,” the website states.

  19. I was appalled when I saw the footage. Not only the tackle, slamming the kid as hard as he could into the ground, but what he did next: throwing this little guy head first off the field at a high rate of speed. If this kid had hit his head into the bench or some other solid object he could have easily been badly injured or even killed.

    Coach must have been proud of beating up this little guy in front of all his players. His chance for glory, for 15 seconds of fame. What a loser…. SHAME ON YOU COACH…

  20. “There’s just no real defense that (Schlegel) was there to potentially enforce the law,” Simmons said.
    _______________________________

    This guy is a moron. This would be a case any rookie defense attorney could win.

  21. Yeah, I’d bet the first base coach for Kansas City would agree with you, Shark, right before he got stabbed by that “fan” in Chicago. Could you tell that fan’s intent when he rushed the field? How do you think Monica Seles feels about “fans” running on the court/field? Bottom line, you don’t know what that idiot is going to do, so you stop him before he can do anything. He wasn’t hurt; Schlegel did the right thing.

  22. Now I want to see the video! Right on, Mr. Schlegel, thanks for taking action and keeping order where those so tasked did not. But be prepared for Drake to quack — again! You may get ZERO warning or a vague threat before you lose your job too.

  23. Kevin, you’re comparing apples and penguins. For those two instances, I can cite numerous others where fans rushed the field either as a stupid prank, to high five a player, or both. And, I ALMOST agree with the take-down. But hauling him off the field by his collar after security had already gained custody, then throwing him to the ground. Sorry, but that’s a has-been-that-never-was trying to be manly manly. What was the coach’s intent in doing that? Neither you nor I know. I think in both cases you can apply the “reasonable man” approach. Coach Washed-Up could have handled a few other ways, even applying just a modicum of physical restraint, that would have been more appropriate.

    Coach Dyanabol isn’t a student. He’s over the age of 30. He’s on the staff. Part of his job is looking at second- and third-order consequences of his and others’ actions, and showing restraint. But, he got a little pumped up from the crowd and wanted a little fame of his own. This 21-year-old did a stupid thing because that’s what 21-year-old college kids do every day of the week. Members of the staff should be held to a higher standard. Unfortunately, since Urban Meyer’s ethical bucket is also empty, that won’t happen.

  24. I wonder if Schelgel would have acted similarly if the student was a female. Also,
    The Ohio State University has violence in the workplace protocol, as most agencies and institutions do. Could Schlegel’s actions be considered violence in the workplace? He was technically working at his workplace when the incident occurred. Food for thought.

  25. It was wrong for the OSU fan to run across the field. It was wrong for the coach to run across the field to slam the fan’s body to the ground. Neither one of them were wearing football gear!The force was so intense to the fans body that the fan was lucky that his neck wasn’t broken. The coach is lucky that he didn’t break the fan’s neck!!!! Did anyone see where the fan was a true public threat that he had to be violently taken down?

  26. No question the kid was stupid but for “coach” to have the veins popping in his neck was just crazy. The force didn’t fit the crime.

  27. Brennan Barrington

    I’d understand this if he was a sociology major or something like that, but how the hell does a mechanical engineer find the time to get drunk and do idiotic stuff? I suppose if he’s satisfied with C’s…

  28. Most college coaches are jacked and pumped on testosterone and and caffeine. He didn’t have to slam a dopey college kid. Lighten up you under paid assistant weight lifting coach.

  29. Wow. There was no risk created until the jackass hit the field. He created the problem; the consequences should stay with him. He is obviously embarrassed since the video has gone viral but legal retaliation will just make him look worse. In addition, he has a pattern of this behavior. Why not have a residential psych eval for a while to see why he is such an attention seeker, complicated by the fact that he ended up not liking the attention he received. Final thought: don’t be stupid and run onto the field during a game.

  30. Um…Ben Matlock…maybe you should get some psych help. Don’t be stupid and run onto the discussion boards during the adults’ conversation. Go back to the little table, simpleton.

  31. It’s great to run out onto the field, just wait until the Buckeyes win and others are doing it too! This greatly reduces odds of arrest for trespass. We have already established several standards in this discussion. First, the student had broken several rules already by reaching the sidelines, so his demonstrated respect for the rule of law was nil. Second, he was apprehended by a member of the university staff, therefore an implied deputization to enforce university rules. Third, by reaching the sidelines without expired eligibility, his entry onto the field of play would have yielded a penalty for too many on the field. Had the buffoon entered from the visitors side and received similar treatment, I would hope that we would be applauding their sportsmanship. I would further hope that this matter would be dismissed for lack of substance so Shark Tronix can go home to AnnArbor

  32. BornInColumbus, you took a long time to set up addressing me. Nevertheless, since Schlegel seems to like grabbing young men, I’m sure PSU ora New Jersey high school has a place for him.

    No Homo, bro!

  33. $100 and COUNSELING. Looks like I might have been right about the need for some psych assistance. I hope this is over and the young man can finish his degree and move on.

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