Lexington officer pleads guilty, apologizes for confrontation with teen soccer referee

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJanuary 16, 2014 

GEORGETOWN — A Lexington police officer pleaded guilty to an amended charge and apologized in open court Thursday to the family of a 13-year-old soccer referee with whom he had a confrontation last year.

Officer Keith Spears, 37, of Stamping Ground pleaded guilty in Scott District Court to an amended charge of harassment with no physical contact. He paid $403 in fines and court costs, agreed to make a $750 donation to the Kentucky Soccer Referee Association and apologized to referee Nathaniel Rase and his parents, Dean and Jennifer Rase.

Turning away from District Judge Mary Jane Phelps so he could face the family, Spears said, "I'd like to extend an apology to the referee and his family. ... I'm sorry it happened."

Spears was charged in October with harassment with physical contact after confronting Nathaniel Rase after a youth soccer game.

Spears had been "cautioned about his unsportsmanlike sideline behavior" by the teen during the game, a complaint filed in court said.

Immediately after the game, Spears approached the teen, "verbally confronted him, shoved him and grabbed his wrist," the complaint said.

Fred Peters, Spears' attorney, said the confrontation went like this: "The young man raised his hand to point that 'you're out of here,' and my client thought when he raised his hand, he was striking him. So all he (Spears) did was put his (Nathaniel's) arm behind his back, like he was trained to do, and then walked away."

During the hearing, the Rase family said they agreed with the plea agreement. Spears is to have no further contact with Nathaniel. Said Dean Rase: "People have got to learn, whether they are 13 or 27 or 37, that a referee is a referee. Their job is to control the game and keep everybody safe."

The matter has been under review by the Lexington police, but little information has been released because it's a personnel matter.

Spears has been a Lexington officer since January 2001 and has worked in the department's Bureau of Administration.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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