NEWBURYPORT — Newburyport Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Fahey delayed her ruling Thursday on former Saugus head football coach Anthony Nalen’s petition for an injunction after he was fired earlier this week.
Nalen’s attorney, Michael Castano of Revere, presented his case Thursday afternoon as Nalen sought to return to his team. He had first been put on leave and not allowed to coach in the Sachems’ first two games.
Nalen, who teaches computer science at Belmonte Middle School in Saugus, was dismissed as head football coach Tuesday afternoon when principal Myra Monto handed him a letter written by Saugus School Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi in the middle of a class.
DeRuosi wasn’t present at Thursday’s hearing but more than a dozen members of the football team were, dressed in matching white shirts and red ties.
According to Castano, the letter cited “failure to supervise” as the reason for Nalen’s termination. The termination stems from an incident in which a player allegedly practiced in his underwear during the first day of the preseason. Last week, Saugus police, who had been asked to investigate the incident, concluded in a five-page report that no crimes were committed in connection with the incident. However, DeRuosi said last Thursday that despite the police report, Nalen had not been reinstated. He also confirmed that Nalen’s assistants had been let go.
Castano’s opening statement lasted roughly 30 minutes, guiding those in the courtroom through a timeline that covered the alleged incident, which took place Aug. 17, through Thursday’s hearing. Castano argued that he and Nalen believe his termination as head football coach was “an absolute intentional, vindictive, retaliation act against (Nalen).”
Castano argued that Nalen’s relationship with the school administration has been rocky since the former Sachems coach was accused of defaming a school chairwoman during the spring. Nalen met with DeRuosi and Saugus High principal Michael Hashem on Aug. 28 and was placed on administrative leave two days later.
Castano also pointed out a recent incident in which Nalen’s fiancée left their house and saw a white truck flashing its lights in her direction. It was later revealed that the school chairwoman whom Nalen was accused of defaming drives a vehicle of a similar description, Castano said.
Attorneys Kevin Smith and Raymond Ausrotas represented DeRuosi. Smith, in his statement, argued that Nalen’s termination was “not because of the results of the (police) investigation but because of facts uncovered in the investigation and Nalen’s conduct during it.”
Fahey questioned several aspects of Smith’s argument.
After hearing both statements, Fahey said she’d take them both into consideration before making a final decision on the motion.
Nalen and Castano both exited the courtroom quickly and declined to comment. As Fahey weighs the arguments, parents and players continue to stand by Nalen. They argued in his defense outside of the courtroom Thursday.
Saugus School Committeewoman Elizabeth Marchese said she felt Fahey was fair during Thursday’s hearing and she hopes the players will gain closure.
“I thought the judge was very fair in listening to the arguments,” said Marchese, whose son, Jack Devereaux, is a junior on the roster. “I’m hoping that she bases her decision on what’s right and just. No matter what happens, I think these children need closure. Either (Nalen’s) coming back or he’s not. I think that’s going to go a long way. These kids have been on an emotional rollercoaster for four weeks now.”
Marchese believes the events over the past four weeks have split the community.
“It tears the community apart,” Marchese said. “Of course there’s always going to be a pro and a con. We were looking forward to such a good season and this brings the morale down all together.
“To have this happen just puts a huge damper on the year and the school year.”
John Beliveau, whose son, Ryan, is a senior on the roster, also commented.
“I heard things I didn’t know about,” Beliveau said. “I didn’t know about the incident involving (Nalen’s) fiancée. I didn’t know about the incident that happened in March. In my opinion there’s a lot of underlying parts. The pieces are slowly coming together.
“It’s making more sense to me that this is a personal thing and this is an attack to (Nalen’s) character.”
Beliveau agreed that the recent events have placed a cloud over the season.
“I’ve had 10 years of Saugus High because I had four kids go through it,” Beliveau said. “I can tell you right now this is the worst year and it’s my last year. It was supposed to go out on a bang and it’s going out on a sour note. I’m so disappointed.”