No one charged in fight after youth game

ANDOVER TWP. Police officer and assistant prosecutor decide that video from school security cameras was not sufficient to bring criminal charges.

Newton /
| 20 Feb 2024 | 09:08

The Andover Township Police Department and Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office have decided not to file charges related to a fight after a youth basketball game Friday, Feb. 2.

After the 7 p.m. game between Newton and Wallkill Valley teams of 9- and 10-year-old girls at Florence M. Burd School, Andover Township Police Officer David Northern responded to the teachers parking lot on a report of a fight in progress, he wrote in a police report dated Feb. 4.

Police said the fight began when Elizabeth Compton, believed to be associated with the Newton team, did not hold the door for Melissa Velez-Morales’ son, who was on crutches.

After the door closed, there was an argument among Velez-Morales, Compton and Compton’s daughter Jessica, according to the police report.

Velez-Morales told police that the argument escalated and by the time the group reached the parking lot, her father, Felix Velez-Rodriguez, was attacked by a man, later identified as Ethan Compton, believed to be Jessica Compton’s son.

“It was reported during the altercation (that) Mr. Velez-Rodriguez was pepper sprayed and a taser was used against him,” the police report said.

“Mrs. Velez-Morales’ sister, Melinda Howey, stated she observed the altercation and was pushed by Ethan when she attempted to stop him from fighting with her father.”

Howey was not injured, and Atlantic EMS arrived to evaluate Velez-Rodriguez.

Howey reportedly is the head coach of the Wallkill Valley team. Multiple calls to her were not returned.

When Northern located the Comptons, Jessica Compton told the officer that the fight began after her mother, Elizabeth, did not notice Velez-Morales’ son behind her on crutches and did not hold the door for him.

Jessica told police that the argument intensified in the parking lot and her son’s girlfriend, Gianna Verduzco, entered the argument and was struck on the right side of her head with a closed fist.

“Gianna, who was present during our conversation, showed me a red mark on her right ear allegedly caused by Mr. Velez-Rodriguez,” Northern wrote in his report. “Jessica stated Mr. Velez-Rodriguez striking Gianna caused her son to get into a physical altercation with him to defend Gianna and prevent another assault against her.”

In speaking with Northern, Elizabeth Compton said Velez-Rodriguez “kept running around their car, possibly attempting to assault them further and was generally acting erratic and ‘crazy,’ “ according to the police report.

Jessica Compton then took out pepper spray attached to her car key ring and used it against Velez-Rodriguez to defend Verduzco, the report said. The “taser” that she used turned out to be a novelty item, according to Northern, who said he believed it was not capable of causing serious harm to an individual.

At that point, Northern told all three women - Elizabeth Compton, Jessica Compton and Gianna Verduzco - about the process to sign a complaint if they wished.

According to the police report, Sussex County Assistant Prosecutor Jerry Neidhart “did not feel this incident met the requirements for the charge of 2C:12-1(F) - simple assault at a school- or community-sponsored youth sporting event - due to it happening after the basketball game and in the parking lot for reasons unrelated to the game itself.”

Footage from school security cameras was not sufficient to bring criminal charges, Northern and Neidhardt decided.

“I spoke with AP (assistant prosecutor) Neidhardt about the video and the decision was made not to charge any individual due to the mostly blocked view of altercation and the inability to clearly identify anyone involved. All parties will be able to file their own complaints with the Andover Township Municipal Court,” Northern wrote.

Andover Township Police Chief Eric Danielson confirmed that no charges were filed and the investigation has concluded.

“I wouldn’t put blame on one side or the other,” he said last week, minutes after approving Northern’s report. “Both parties were angry over an incident - whether it occurred or didn’t occur, they have two opposing opinions and they mutually agreed to argue over it.”