STRANGE INCIDENT DURING GAME LEADS TO ARRESTS
The referee and head linesmen who were arrested for intimidation while working the St. Paul's-Mandeville football game Friday night have been released today in St. Tammany.
The arrest followed a confrontation between a Covington policeman, whose detail assignment is security and crowd control and paid by St. Paul's school officials, and head linesman Chris Gambino.
According to Kevin Boitmann, the assignment secretary for the Greater New Orleans Football Officials Association, Gambino asked a group of spectators standing on the Mandeville sideline to move back so he would have room to work on the sideline as St. Paul was about to run a scrimmage play at the Mandeville 13-yard line. At that time there were about six minutes remaining in the third period
The spectators did not. Gambino then asked a nearby Covington police officer for assistance. At that point a conversation began between the policeman and head linesman.
Referee James Radcliffe joined the conversation, and after a brief confrontation, the two were escorted to a police cruiser and taken to the Covington jail.
According to a report in the New Orleans Advocate, Covington Police Department interim chief Jack West said the (referee) was asking a group of people on the sideline to be moved, but the officer asked that if someone needed to move, that (referee) should handle the situation.
West was quoted as saying the referee allegedly became confrontational and was later removed from the field, along with another game official (the head linesman).
West told the Advocate, "In talking to several witnesses, it is as the officer described it."
However, two other officials who were on the seven-man crew assigned to work the game, that two fans on the Mandeville side were standing on the sideline close to the field where they would have interfered with head linesman if he had to follow the play.
The head linesman, Gambino, asked the spectators to move back to give him room. They allegedly did not. At that point, Gambino asked a Covington policeman, who was standing next to the two fans to move them back. The policeman allegedly told the official to watch the (expletive) game and not to worry about anything else, the officials told Sportsnola.com.
According to the returning officials who finished the game working as a five-man crew, Gambino asked the policeman a question and the reply was, "If you open your mouth one more time, you're under arrest."
Radcliff said Saturday morning following his release, "The back judge, who heard the conversation between Chris and the policeman, told me, 'You better get over there. We have a situation,'" Radcliff said. "When I went over there, the policeman told me to take care of the game and he's take care of the spectators. He said, 'One more word, and I'm cuffing.
"I asked him again to move them back. The policeman then told me , 'Are you ordering me?" I said, 'I want them behind the fence.' At that point I and Chris were arrested for misdemeanor intimidation.
"While I was being detained, I found out that the (arresting) policeman's son plays on the Mandeville football team and the spectators were his friends," Radcliff said.
Meanwhile, other local officials, some retired New Orleans policeman, a few other attorneys, attempted to locate a bail bondsman to have their colleagues released Friday night. However, they could only get them bailed after the two officials were detained in the St. Tammany jail.
The Covington Police Department detained the two for several hours before re-arresting them in the St. Tammany detention center. Gambino's family had him released. Gambino then posted bail for Radcliff's release at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Luckily, there was a seven-man crew working the game, and the remaining five were able to resume play after about 15 minutes of interruption. Back judge Chris Fourcade, an experienced referee, took over for Radcliff as crew chief.
St. Paul's coach Ken Sears apologized to the officials. To their credit, they did not want to penalize the teams for something that was out of their control and finished the game, using 5-man techniques.
Radcliff was scheduled to be the referee at Saturday's District 9-5A game between Brother Martin and St. Augustine. Radcliff is a respected official by the LHSAA because of his professionalism. He is also the assignment secretary for New Orleans basketball officials and softball umpires.