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Mom encouraged ‘sucker punch’ during youth basketball game, prosecutors say

A player lies on the court after being hit during a youth basketball game.
A player lies on the court after being hit Nov. 7 during a youth basketball game at the MAP Sports Facility in Garden Grove.
(Alice Ham)

A La Puente mother is facing jail time after prosecutors say she encouraged her daughter to hit another child during a youth basketball game in Garden Grove last month.

Latira Shonty Hunt, 44, has been charged with one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one misdemeanor count of battery, the Orange County district attorney announced Thursday. She faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail if convicted on all counts, officials said.

The incident took place during a Nov. 7 basketball game at the MAP Sports Facility. The victim’s mother, Alice Ham, posted a video of the punch on Instagram. By Thursday, it had been viewed more than 357,000 times.

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In the video, Hunt’s daughter appears to be walking away from a scuffle with another player when a woman can be heard yelling, “You better hit her for that.”

Seconds later, the girl hits the other player in what the district attorney’s office described as “an unprovoked attack” and others called a “sucker punch.”

The victim falls to the floor amid gasps from the crowd.

“There is absolutely no place for something like this in basketball, I don’t care how famous you are!” Ham wrote in the video’s caption.

The father of the girl in the attack is former Chicago Bulls player Corey Benjamin, who later issued an apology.

“As a father, I’m shocked and disappointed at my daughter’s behavior as this is not a reflection of the values and standards that my family holds,” Benjamin said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.

An attorney for the player who was struck said she is 15 and the girl who threw the punch is 14.

Ham said neither mother nor daughter showed remorse or offered an apology after the punch. In a separate post, she encouraged the district attorney’s office to press charges for “the sake of my daughter and everyone else’s kids.”

Reached by phone Thursday, Ham said she was pleased that the charges had been filed. When asked how her daughter is doing, she said, “she is doing physically better, [but] emotionally, there’s still a lot to work through.”

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a statement that it was “unconscionable” for a parent to encourage a child to engage in violence during a sporting event.

The details of the beating, described in a May lawsuit, follow weeks of controversy for the storied Santa Ana football program.

“Competitive greatness is something that should be encouraged, but encouraging violence against a rival player is criminal,” he said. “I will not allow a child to be intentionally subjected to physical harm under the guise of a youth sporting event under any circumstances.”

Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said it is not common for parents to be charged in connection with the actions of their children, and she was not aware of any similar cases.

Edds could not comment on whether the daughter will face charges, citing prohibitions for discussing juvenile investigations.

Avac United, the Southern California youth basketball organization that hosted the game, said it has banned the player and her mother from future tournaments.

“We are very saddened about this and apologize to the family, fans and all that have been impacted,” Avac United Chief Executive Gary Thomas said in a statement. “This type of behavior is never condoned by us and does not represent who we are or what we strive to teach our children.”

Hunt could not be reached for comment Thursday. According to court records, she will be arraigned Jan. 26.


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