In June of 2012, the story of Martin Tremblay, a Canadian Pee Wee hockey coach, swept the United States. Tremblay was caught on video tripping two youth hockey players of an opposing team while walking through the line for a post-game handshake. More recently, Tremblay was sentenced to 15 days in jail to be served on intermittent weekends.
After pleading guilty to the charge of assault, Tremblay and his attorney were reportedly stunned by the decision, as they had hoped the guilty plea would keep Tremblay out of jail. During delivery of the sentence, the judge was quotes as saying, “[w]in or lose, this was just a game. This was the last place anyone would have expected an assault to take place, and the very last place one would have expected an adult to assault a child. The tripping of the boys was akin to a cowardly sucker punch on an unsuspecting victim.”
For someone living in Massachusetts, this decision begs the question: What would the penalty be in Massachusetts? Here, the issue is governed by M.G.L.A. 265 § 13J: Assault and Battery Upon a Child; Penalties. The law states, “[w]hoever commits an assault and battery upon a child and by such assault and battery causes bodily injury shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than two and one-half years.” For the purpose of this definition, “child” means, “any person under fourteen years of age,” and “bodily injury” means, “substantial impairment of the physical condition including . . . fracture of any bone . . . .”
Importantly, the boy that Tremblay tripped was only thirteen years old. Moreover, he suffered two fractured wrists when he used them in an attempt to break his fall. These two important facts are strong evidence that Tremblay is guilty of M.G.L.A. 265 § 13J. While the punishment prescribed in the statutory language is a maximum penalty, courts rarely treat the assault and battery of a child lightly.
It is true that a defendant can often procure a reduced sentence if they agree to plead guilty. I find it unlikely, however, that a Massachusetts’ judge would find it appropriate to deliver a figurative “slap on the wrist” in a case like this. Many people have opined that a sentence of jail time for this crime is too harsh. With that said, this case attracted widespread attention and in the past year has been discussed over and again. Pair that with the fact that Tremblay had a reputation in the youth hockey league for unpredictable and unacceptable behavior and jail time makes a litter more sense. Were this series of events to have taken place in Massachusetts, I wouldn’t expect the penalty to have been any more lenient and perhaps even harsher.