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Coach Acquitted Of Assault

ATOKA, Okla. (AP) -- A jury has acquitted a high school coach of an assault and battery charge involving a student. Craig Viefhaus, 31, was accused of putting a football player in a choke hold until the student lost consciousness.

An Atoka County jury took just 40 minutes last week to decide that Viefhaus was not guilty.

During his trial, 16 witnesses were called to the stand to talk about an altercation between Viefhaus and a 16-year-old Atoka High School student.

Viefhaus was an assistant football coach when the incident took place.

His attorney, Gary James of Oklahoma City, said the student was trying to pinch Viefhaus and got angry and charged Viefhaus after he told him to stop pinching him.

Witnesses testified that the student tackled the coach and lunged with his right shoulder into Viefhaus' midsection.

James said Viefhaus put the student in a choke hold in self-defense, and it wasn't long enough to cause the student to pass out.

"All the witnesses said it happened within a few seconds," James said. The student played in the football game the next day.

After the incident, Viefhaus was dismissed from his coaching position and put on an improvement plan, said Superintendent Mark McPherson.

Viefhaus has continued to be a teacher at the high school.

"I guess if there is a winner in this, he's the winner," McPherson said. "But I don't think he feels much like a winner. We disciplined him pretty sternly."
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