Midstate prosecutor wants tighter bail for child molestation suspect

The president of the Middle Georgia Football Officials Association, charged with child molestation in May, has continued to referee games.

Jason Anthony Cooper, 41, of Macon, was arrested May 17 after allegations that he “engaged in inappropriate contact” with a 15-year-old girl, according to a Bibb County Sheriff’s Office report.

Cooper, of a Stratford Hill Drive address, was released the following day on a $10,000 bail bond on the condition that he not have contact with any child under 17 without supervision.

Bibb County prosecutor Nancy Scott Malcor filed a motion Thursday in Bibb County Superior Court asking a judge to modify Cooper’s bail.

The modification would require that schools where Cooper is scheduled to officiate are notified that he’s out on bail on a child molestation charge before he arrives on school grounds, and that he must be supervised while on campus, according to the motion. Cooper has been refereeing games since his arrest, according to the motion.

Cooper’s attorney, Holly de Rosa Hogue, said Cooper sought guidance from other officials in an attempt to act appropriately.

“My belief is that the evidence will show that there were officials who were aware,” Hogue said. “He is presumed innocent at this point.”

Cooper has complied with bail conditions, she said.

If Cooper’s bail is modified, Hogue said she expects that no school will approve his working games because of the stigma attached to the allegation.

“It’s a tough thing for Jason,” she said.

Contacted Thursday, Ralph Swearngin, executive director of the Georgia High School Association, said he had not been informed of the charge against Cooper.

Generally, “inquiries” are referred to the GHSA by local organizations of officials, he said.

Messages left for a member of the Middle Georgia Football Officials Association leadership were not returned Thursday.

Referees are registered with the GHSA at the beginning of each sports season. For football, the registration would have been in July and August, Swearngin said.

He said the GHSA does not allow a referee to officiate games after an indictment, and a person cannot resume calling games until after a sentence has been completed.

Once a referee completes a court-ordered sentence, the GHSA’s legal counsel evaluates the referee’s integrity and whether he or she could be harmful to young people as a part of determining whether the referee is allowed to officiate again, he said.

Cooper has not been indicted, according to court records.

Bibb County Athletics Director Raynette Evans said the Bibb County school system contracts with various associations of officials to provide referees for middle school and high school sports.

“We don’t know the membership,” she said.

Although she said she’s not sure whether Cooper has officiated at any varsity football games since the charge against him, Evans said she knows he hasn’t served as a head official at recent varsity games.

Schools have the liberty to request that a certain official not officiate at games, she said.

Evans said she wasn’t aware of Cooper’s arrest before a Thursday call from The Telegraph.

“It’s something we’ll certainly discuss with our superintendent and go from there,” she said.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.