Defensive end

Player sidelined over $24 theft

Laura Elder

Nick Navratil isn’t accustomed to being sidelined.

But Navratil, 17, who has played football, baseball and wrestled since he was 3 years old, could only watch this season as his former Moffat County High School Bulldogs teammates played without him.

“I think it sucks,” he said. “I let my team down; I didn’t get to play.”

Unless he wins a court appeal, Navratil also won’t play high school football next year.

If Navratil can’t play football next season, his chances of playing college football, or getting the attention of a scout are nonexistent, said Suzanne Garrett, his mother.

Football was a way to college, his family said.

“It has affected him not just now, but his future,” Garrett said.

In August, Navratil was convicted of third-degree burglary after being accused of stealing $24 from another student’s locker on April 27. He and his attorneys are awaiting a decision on his appeal.

Navratil, who has denied taking the money, was sentenced to two years probation. But tougher than probation, he said, is 14th Judicial District Court Judge Michael O’Hara’s decision to impose a restraining order against Navratil. The restraining order forbids Navratil from having any contact with the teammate whose money he was convicted of taking. That means no high school football for Navratil unless he wins an appeal.

In a small town, where families on both sides are well known, residents are reluctant to publicly take sides. Because the case involved juveniles, Navratil’s court hearings weren’t open to the public. The Craig Daily Press would not have had access to trial transcripts were it not for Navratil’s family. But it’s a case with which most everyone around town is familiar and one Navratil’s family isn’t willing to let rest.

Some residents say Navratil doesn’t deserve sympathy and point to his past legal problems. Others say Navratil got more than he deserved and that his punishment is far too harsh.

But almost everyone agrees that $24 is costing Navratil his chance to play football.

Garrett concedes her son has been in legal trouble before, but never for burglary or theft.

Navratil, now a junior, was accused of stealing the $24 just weeks before probation would have ended for a charge of disorderly conduct, stemming from a fight in ninth grade. Navratil also got in trouble for fighting in middle school. “He’s not perfect, he’s not an angel, but he is a great kid,” Garrett said.

Garrett said prosecutors were overzealous in their case against her son, whom she said she thinks is innocent.

“There’s a huge problem with the DA’s thinking,” she said. “I don’t see how they can let such huge cases go, and they’re hammering on our kids.”

Garrett is referring to a case earlier this month when District Attor–ney Bonnie Roesink announced that three Wisconsin men accused of traveling with 30 pounds of marijuana would not be charged because of questions about the legality of the search.

Amy Fitch, chief deputy district attorney for the 14th Judicial District, said the restraining order was not part of Navratil’s punishment.

It isn’t unusual for courts to grant restraining orders against someone convicted in a criminal case, she said. The idea is to prevent that person from harassing or retaliating against their victim, Fitch said.

Typically, the courts would encourage teenagers in trouble with the law to participate in school activities. But in Navratil’s case, the issue was about the physical contact that football requires.

More than once, Garrett has gone before the court, asking that the restraining order be modified to allow her son to play football.

“He never threatened or touched a hair on (the victim’s) head,” Garrett said.

Kip Hafey, coach for the Bulldogs, declined to comment about Navratil’s case.

Harry Peroulis, who, with his family, owns Peroulis Brothers, a trucking business, said the restraining order is taking away some of Navratil’s best years.

Navratil works at Peroulis Brothers. “He’s lost a year of doing what he wanted to do,” Peroulis said. “It’s important to keep them involved and keep them focused, and that’s the part that bothered me more than anything — the school was used as a penalizing factor.”

Navratil said he didn’t take the $24. The family said prosecutors advised him that if he showed remorse and said he took the money, his sentence could be lighter.

“I don’t need to steal money,” he said. “I have a job. I’m not going to say something I didn’t do.”

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