GARDEN GROVE, Calif. - The mother of a teenage girl who sucker-punched an opposing player during a youth basketball game in Garden Grove last month is now facing criminal charges, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Tira Hunt, whose full name is Latira Shonty Hunt, 44, of La Puente, has been charged with misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and battery for allegedly urging her daughter from the stands to hit the other girl. She faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
According to the Orange County District Attorney's Office, Hunt yelled at her daughter from the stands during the Nov. 7 game, telling her daughter "you better hit her for that." Moments later, the daughter struck the other girl in the head, causing her to fall to the floor.
"It is unconscionable that a parent would encourage her child to engage in violence during a sporting event," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. "Youth sports are invaluable in teaching our children discipline, teamwork, and sportsmanship. But a win at all costs mentality that is completely devoid of fair play, respect, and civility is disgusting. We as parents have the fundamental responsibility to raise our children to be good human beings who treat others with kindness and humanity."
Teen is the daughter of former NBA player Corey Benjamin
The girl who threw the sucker punch is the daughter of ex-Chicago Bulls player Corey Benjamin.
Following the game, Benjamin issued a statement on social media apologizing for his daughter's actions.
"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. "Nor does it exemplify the values, character and spirit of sportsmanship that the game of basketball requires.
"To the young lady who was punched by my daughter during a youth basketball game, I sincerely apologize to you and I am praying for your complete healing both physically and emotionally," he said. "To her family, I deeply apologize and regret that this happened to your daughter as she did not deserve this to happen to her. Finally, I apologize to all of those who have been impacted and hurt by the actions of my daughter as well as those of her mother."
Video posted on social media shows the teen sucker-punching her opponent, 15-year-old Lauryn Ham, during a youth basketball game on Nov. 7.
Ham was on defense when the other girl missed a three, they get wrapped up for a moment, then head down the court when out of nowhere the girl punched Ham.
"Once her teammate showed me the clip, I was absolutely horrified, shocked, just completely disgusted by what I saw," said Lauryn’s mom, Alice Ham.
She said her daughter suffered a concussion.
Ham's mother said that in the video, you can hear Hunt instructing her daughter to throw the punch.
"The mother on the video can be heard saying ‘you need to hit her for that,’" Ham told FOX 11 at the time.
"Besides just the horrendous and violent actions of the player, the mother instructing her to go and hit another player, I mean that’s beyond outrageous," said Kevin Hahn, an attorney representing the Ham family.
Brett Alan Greenfield, an attorney representing Corey Benjamin’s daughter, released the following statement following the incident: "My client and her family are deeply and sincerely remorseful. This is an unfortunate incident involving a very hard-working and promising student-athlete. We must keep some perspective and keep in mind that this is a young minor who has made a mistake."
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CNS contributed to this report.