Jackie Robinson West Little League coaches cleared in court; U.S. championship not reinstated

Chicago News

CHICAGO — The fraud charges against two Jackie Robinson West Little League coaches have been dismissed, but the organization is refusing to reinstate their U.S. championship.

In 2014, a scandal tainted the feel-good story of a group of boys from Morgan Park who captured America’s hearts that August.

After they won the U.S. title, Little League International accused manager Darnold Butler and assistant coach Jerry Houston of blurring residency lines and requirements. They took the matter to Cook County Circuit Court, where it was dismissed on Tuesday.

After the dismissal, Butler and Houston stood at a church just a few blocks away from the field where they played and proclaimed their “exoneration.”

“This was worth fighting for. If somebody does something does something wrong, somebody wants to be a bully, you have to stand up to bully,” Butler said. “This could have gone on another ten years and we would have continued to fight that, we wasn’t not going to fight. It’s the right thing to.”

Court documents showed the coaches had no knowledge of cheating and Little League International reached a settlement with the players.

In a statement Tuesday, Little League International said the “settlement speaks for itself” and maintains that Jackie Robinson West did cheat.

“JRW League now acknowledges that certain players from the 2014 Little League International Tournament team did not meet Little League’s residence and school attendance player eligibility requirements, unbeknownst to the JRW Players. As a result, the parties have reached a mutual agreement to settle the ongoing litigation. Little League International is pleased that this matter is now concluded, and that the players can move forward with our best wishes for success,” the statement read.

The coaches’ attorney acknowledged that some adults involved in Jackie Robinson West did cheat, but said it was not his clients.

“Some adults involved in the 2014 JRW cheated, some adults did that,” attorney John Bowley said. “My clients, volunteer coaches were not among them.”

Both Butler and Houston said they remain in touch with the 2014 team. Last year, shortstop and Mount Carmel grad Ed Howard was selected 16th overall in the MLB Draft by the Cubs.

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