Cobb County father sentenced to 5 years in prison for punching coach

The punch in October 2008 came two days after coach Preston Moses told Ronald Lee’s 17-year-old son he had to run sprints for missing a class at Pebblebrook High School or he could leave the team.

The upset boy took his punishment but complained to his parents.  Lee was “upset with something he thought the coach had said to his son,” Cobb County prosecutor Bonnie Smith said.

After taking his son to a doctor’s appointment two days after his punishment, Lee came to practice to talk to Moses, waiting until “all the parents had left the field and he sucker punches the coach, " Smith said.

“It sounds like just one punch … but it was an attack,” Smith said. “We found it to be a premeditated, unprovoked act of violence.”

Moses’ lip was “split open all the way through,” and he has nerve damage and gum injuries. Moses has had one surgery and is likely to need another, Smith said.

She also said the coach’s son was standing with his father when Lee hit him and then walked away, leaving the teenage players to care for Moses’ frightened 7-year-old.

"My kid was just going crazy and I didn't understand exactly why,” Moses testified earlier in the week. “I knew [Lee] had done something, I didn't know exactly what it was. I knew I was hit and when I looked down I was just covered in blood and that's why my kid ... was just screaming, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.'”

Lee claimed it was self-defense, however.

“He dropped the whistle out of his mouth and he came towards me and I reacted,” Lee testified. “He went down on one knee … I was just kind of stunned for a minute because of what happened. And then I just walked off the field.”

Until that day, there were no animosities between the two men.

“He’s sorry about what happened,” Lee’s attorney, Lagrant Anthony, said.

Lee and Moses had known each other since the Lee family moved to Mableton from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Lee, a truck driver, attended his son’s games and many of the practices. And Lee’s wife was president of the high school’s booster club at the time of the incident. Moses also had coached the Lee’s son in track as well as football. Lee’s daughter often played with Moses’ son.

The jury deliberated less than an hour Wednesday before convicting Lee, 41, of aggravated battery to a teacher, aggravated battery of a school employee and cruelty to children. He could have been sentenced Thursday to as much as 20 years in prison because the fight was on school property and against a school employee, Anthony and Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Judge C. LaTain Kell sentenced Lee on Thursday morning to five years in prison plus another10 years probation.

“He doesn’t have a record,” Anthony said of Lee. “Most people who don’t have a record don’t get a sentence this severe. But the gentlemen in the Legislature thought these types of crimes committed against a public official, like teachers, on school properties should give those offenses a little more harsh punishment.”

Smith said the sentence was severe because Moses was disfigured.

In a similar case in Clayton County, a 46-year-old woman pleaded guilty to attacking her daughter's teacher at Southside High School and she was sentenced to a year in prison and four years probation. In that case, Georgia Thornton attacked Felecia Williams when she and her daughter went to the school to talk to the teacher. Williams testified that the mother and daughter ."

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.