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Former Congressman accused of punching youth soccer coach

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One day you’re a rising star in national politics, the next you’ve fallen from grace to the point you’re punching a kids’ soccer coach who wears a neck brace.

Chip Pickering, once a shoo-in to replace his old boss Trent Lott as the U.S. Senator from Mississippi, instead is begging coach and nurse Chris Hester to drop simple assault charges against him after the two got in a scuffle following a 10- and 11-year-olds’ soccer game in Madison, Miss.

Hester’s team was playing a team featuring Pickering’s son. Hester said Pickering attacked him in his truck, while Pickering said that after he went to upbraid Hester about being what he called verbally abusive to his son, Hester attacked him. For what it’s worth, Hester also has a simple assault charge against him related to the incident. He might have a neck brace, but apparently his fists still work.

Each side’s lawyers are talking to see whether charges might be dropped before a scheduled Jan. 19 court date. Pickering already is on the record saying he wants to settle this “man to man.” Um, Chip, you already tried settling one conflict with Hester man-to-man, and it’s safe to say that didn’t work out too well.

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I’m sure the coach hurts, but I haven’t seen such a hilarious neck brace since the cancellation of whatever the last sitcom was that featured a fake auto accident injury as a major plot device.

If this were just a lesson in how even the most august among us are prone to going goofy at youth sports events, the story would end here. Unfortunately for the Chipster, the incident appears to be part of a precipitous decline from future U.S. Senator to someone going to the courthouse enough to get a punchcard that would make his 10th appearance free.

When Lott resigned as Senator in November 2007, Pickering, his former aide and the son of a judge (Charles Pickering) famously appointed by President George W. Bush and famously not confirmed because of Democratic objections (and a judge who is a longtime power-broker in the Mississippi Republican party and a Tea Partier), was rumored to be the top choice to replace him. Pickering not only refused to take Lott’s seat, but he also announced he would resign from the House of Representatives in 2008 after 12 years, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife and five sons.

At least with his wife, Chip Pickering’s pledge to “spend more time” meant “spend more time with her before a judge.” In June 2008, Pickering announced he and his wife Leisha would divorce. A little more than a year later, Leisha Pickering sued Chip’s alleged mistress, Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd, in what’s called an alienation-of-affection lawsuit. (Mississippi is one of four states that allow those, which gives aggrieved ex-spouses-to-be the right to sue homewreckers on the grounds they sabotaged a legally binding contract. I guess that sounds easier to rationalize to yourself than “she was my husband’s reverse cowboy.”)

As part of the court cases, apparently Republican bigwigs are trying to make sure a diary Pickering kept of his shenanigans, a missive that includes the names of his boys who covered his tracks for him. This is a bit of an issue because Pickering is the third member of the s0-called, allegedly highly religious C Street Fellowship, following Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (a former House member) to be caught walking the Appalachain Trail.

So I can imagine that the lawyer(s) for Chip Pickering are trying to impress upon the soccer coach with the neck brace to be a little understanding. After all, Chipper’s having a bit of a rough go. C’mon, man, be a pal!

If Pickering is being made to look a fool for the youth soccer incident, well, it’s hardly the first time. You might remember Pickering for his co-starring role as a Congressman appearing a church to preach against evolution and for Christian government in a little movie called Borat.

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