ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - The head coach of the Orlando Predators arena football team was suspended by the team on Monday after his arrest on a domestic battery charge after his girlfriend told an emergency dispatcher he grabbed her by the neck, according to an affidavit.
Robert Keefe, 34, was arrested on Sunday, making the Predators, members of the indoor Arena Football League, the latest professional sports team to face domestic violence issues.
Keefe did not enter a plea on Monday at his first court appearance. A judge allowed him to be released without requiring that he post bail. He will be under supervision while he awaits trial, said Carrie Proudfit, a spokeswoman for the jail in Orange County, Florida.
Orlando Predators President Jared Saft announced Keefe had been suspended with pay while the case is being investigated. “This is not an indication of his guilt or innocence or that there is any validity to the charges,” Saft said in a statement.
“We take this matter and the issue of domestic violence very seriously, and feel this is the best course of action ... before making a final decision,” he added.
Saft said Keefe’s girlfriend had contacted the team to report the dispute.
“She has assured us this was an isolated incident. However, we are still investigating the facts,” Saft said in a separate statement.
An Orange County deputy wrote in the affidavit that he found the woman in her car crying, and that her neck and chin were red.
The woman told the deputy that Keefe grabbed her by the neck, pushed her up against the apartment door, then lifted her off her feet by the rib cage. Until she started screaming, Keefe would not let her leave, according to the affidavit.
Keefe and the woman have been a couple for three years and have been living together for 17 months, according to the affidavit.
Keefe initially denied to the deputy that he touched her, but later “apologized for his behavior several times,” according to the affidavit. After his girlfriend realized Keefe would be arrested, she refused to cooperate further, the officer reported.
In his first season with the Predators, Keefe led the team to an 11-7 record. Before arriving in Orlando, Keefe was part of the coaching staff for the Spokane Shock, the Philadelphia Soul and the Utah Blaze, according to the Predators’ website.
Editing by David Adams, Doina Chiacu and Peter Cooney