Editorial: District, WPIAL, and media punishment enough for Alonzo

Many were perplexed when it was announced on Feb. 22 that California (Pa.) University was pressing charges against Woodland Hills’ basketball player Shakim Alonzo for punching Peters Township’s Gabe Pritz during their first round WPIAL AAAA playoff game on Feb 18. Why didn’t they just leave his punishment to the school and the WPIAL Board of Control?

According to a Peters Township press release, “This week a collaborative investigation between the Peters Township and the Woodland Hills School Districts resulted in an amicable resolution to issues resulting from the incident that took place during Saturday’s playoff game. Reports will be filed with WPIAL officials, and suitable discipline will be handled by each school as necessary.”  Further, the Pritz family stated that they “hoped this would be ‘old news’ by this time.”

So, what would motivate California University to move forward with the case?  The Peters Township Patch published on Feb 20. that “University police Chief Bob Downey told the newspaper his office will consult with the Washington County District Attorney’s office this week to determine whether to file charges.” Eugene Vittone is the newly elected District Attorney for Washington County, and has been in office since only January 3, 2012. His campaign platform stated that “I have had one goal in mind — putting criminals where they belong.” Mr. Vittone’s website further states that “Gene’s elementary, middle and high school years were spent in the Peters Township School District. In high school, he was a member of the original PTHS marching band and a varsity letterman in Track and Field.”

Do Alonzo’s actions need to be resolved in the juvenile legal system?  Alonzo is a 17 year old student-athlete who made one impulsive mistake at the end of an otherwise blemish-free successful two-sport high school career. At the news conference on Friday he appeared somber and remorseful. It was just 23 days earlier that Alonzo was in that same conference room signing his National Letter of Intent to follow his dreams to play college football. At the news conference, Alonzo, with Coaches Novak and Decker and his parents by his side, said, “My actions are completely inexcusable, and I’m sorry. Unfortunately, the events during the game led to poor decision-making on my part.”  According to Novak, Alonzo was disciplined by Woodland Hills, but state law does not allow disclosure of the punishment. “No matter what happened to him during the game, Shakim’s actions were unacceptable,” Novak said. “He has been disciplined accordingly.”

What would a conviction of simple assault and harassment accomplish?  It seems that the current resolution has satisfied both teams and further the WPIAL Board of Control will meet to give their ruling and possible sanctions. Alonzo has already been tried in the court of public opinion; he has been the topic of internet and social media rants and his actions have been depicted continuously over the last week on TV and in all area newspapers.

Alonzo knows he was wrong and this may trail him for years to come.  But it’s time for everyone,

including DA Vittone, to follow the Pritz family’s lead and put energy toward fixing the problem — “We must all continue to improve sportsmanship in all of our individual schools,” said Coach Novak.

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