No probable cause in assault case
Judge lowers bail for DWC hoopster Caudill
NASHUA – Former Daniel Webster College basketball star Marquise Caudill told a district court judge Monday that he “faked like I was going to stomp” a Southern Vermont College player when the teams’ Feb. 18 game erupted in a brawl after a scramble for a loose ball.
But Caudill stopped short of following through, he said, telling the Vermont player, Kyle Depollar, “you’re lucky I’m not that kind of guy.”
Caudill, called to the witness stand by his lawyer, Nashua attorney Tim Bush, recounted for the court the series of events leading up to, during and after the melee, which broke out about six minutes into the second half of what would be the final game ever for the DWC men’s basketball program.
Caudill, 22, currently of South Hadley, Mass., ended up being charged with a felony count of second-degree assault, accusing him of “stomping” Depollar after allegedly leveling him with a punch to the face.
But after reviewing the testimony and the evidence, Judge Lucinda Sadler said she found no probable cause to support a felony charge, and reduced Caudill’s bail to $2,500 cash or surety from the original $50,000 set at his Feb. 20 arraignment.
The County Attorney’s office can still bring the felony-level charge to a grand jury for possible indictment, but the fact the district court judge found no probable cause lessens considerably the chances that a grand jury would return an indictment.
“We’re very pleased that Judge Sadler agreed that there is no probable cause for a felony charge, based on the evidence presented today,” Bush said in brief remarks following the hearing.
Caudill, who turns 23 on March 17, also faces three Class A misdemeanor offenses – disorderly conduct, simple assault and criminal threatening – stemming from the incident.
Sadler set Caudill’s next hearing for April 3 in the Nashua court.
In the meantime, if he makes bail, he is ordered to have no contact with Depollar; refrain from consuming alcohol or illegal drugs; not possess any firearms and to sign a waiver of extradition.
Attorney Steve Ranfos, the prosecutor, amended the felony second-degree assault complaint minutes before the start of Monday’s hearing. To the original wording accusing Caudill of “recklessly causing bodily injury” to Depollar with “extreme indifference to the value of human life” by stomping Depollar’s head “while he was on the ground in a defenseless position,” Ranfos added “resulting in a swollen lip and loss of feeling in his teeth and gums.”
Bush called attention to the new wording, reading to Sadler pertinent excerpts from the state statute regarding second-degree assault, which Bush claimed don’t support the charge.
“This was a basketball fight,” he said. “To go from a basketball fight to $50,000 bail is a stretch. Either way, this young man has spent way too much time in jail,” Bush said.
He referred to Caudill’s 17-day stint in Valley Street jail, which he called “too long” under the circumstances.
First on the stand Monday was Nashua police officer John Hannigan, who was working a security detail at the Feb. 18 game due, he said, to DWC officials’ concerns that the game could get physical to the point it gets out of hand.
The game was “intense from the beginning,” Hannigan said, and “became more and more physical” as it progressed. With many players already “agitated” at one another, a scramble for a loose ball in front of the teams’ benches proved the ignition point.
As players began helping their teammates up after the referee signalled a jump ball, Hannigan said, “things got a little chippy … they were yelling at each other.” He said Depollar later told him he was helping a teammate up when “he got pushed … then a punch came out of
nowhere,” Hannigan said.
By then, Hannigan said he was walking toward the skirmish, and saw the punch Caudill allegedly threw at Depollar. But, he added, he didn’t see Caudill allegedly stomp Depollar, because a surging crowd obstructed his view.
Depollar later told Hannigan that Caudill was the one who punched him, but was “shaky” with details of the alleged stomping incident.
“Kyle was on the floor, he covered his face … he believes he might have been stomped on,” Ranfos said in direct questioning, “because he had a fat lip, his face swelled and he had numbness on the left side of his mouth.”
Bush, in cross-examination, asked Hannigan, “so (Depollar) couldn’t tell you he was stomped in the face, right?”
“Yes, the details were shaky,” Hannigan responded.
Next up was Caudill, who wore an orange DOC jumpsuit and was shackled at the ankles for the hearing. Under questioning by Bush, Caudill said he was born in New Haven, Conn., was taken into state custody at age 6 and lived in “seven, maybe eight” different foster homes until high school.
Accepted to junior college with the assistance of the state, Caudill said he played basketball but wasn’t a starter, nor a star.
“Did you get into any trouble?” Bush asked, to which Caudill replied “No, sir.”
Although he had a chance to go to a Division I or II school, Caudill said he chose Daniel Webster because “I connected with the coaches.”
“Did you ever get a technical (foul) at Daniel Webster?” Bush interjected. “No,” Caudill replied. “Ever get into a fight” before Feb. 18? “No,” he said. “Any discipline problems at Daniel Webster, on or off the court?” “No sir,” he again replied.
According to Caudill, the loose-ball skirmish wasn’t his first brush-up with Depollar.
Several minutes into the game, he said, “I got
elbowed in the face by him,” referring to Depollar. “I asked the ref, ‘You see that?’ He said no.”
Later, when the skirmish erupted, Caudill said Depollar “gave me a cheap shot, in the pelvic area … then he lost his balance and fell,” he said.
Caudill said he had the ball but “let go of it” when the ref blew the whistle. He said he remembers his arm entangled with one of Depollar’s arms.
“I felt like my elbow was dislocating,” Caudill said, adding that he said “let go” “about three times.”
“I punched him because he didn’t let go,” Caudill said.
Asked to step down from the stand to demonstrate for the court what happened next, Caudill raised his right leg, kicked downward, his foot stopping about halfway to the floor.
“I faked like I was going to stomp him,” he said, denying that he ever made contact with Depollar.
“So there’s no doubt in your mind that you didn’t touch him with your foot?” Bush asked. “None,” Caudill answered.
But Ranfos took issue with Caudill’s statements. “Three witnesses saw him stomp on (Depollar),” he said. “They had to have half the police department there. He didn’t calm down. He’s where he is because of his behavior.”
Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashua