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Mom Says Cheer Coach|Choked Her Daughter

SAVANNAH, Ga. (CN) - A Georgia cheerleading coach became so enraged at an Atlanta competition that she grabbed a member of her team by the throat, choking the teen with such force she left fingernail marks behind, the girl's mother claims in court.

In a lawsuit filed in Chatham County, Ga., Michelle Mahany says her daughter Reghan, a minor, was a member of a Savannah-based competitive cheering team that traveled to Atlanta in February 2015 to take part in statewide competition.

The team was organized by defendant Cheer Savannah Inc., and coached by defendant Stephanie Britt.

According to the Jan. 13 complaint, after Reghan Mahany's routine, Britt made negative comments about her performance, and then suddenly grabbed her by the throat.

"Reghan experienced difficulty breathing and was in a state of utter shock," her mother says.

The complaint continues: "This incident was witnessed by approximately nineteen fellow cheerleaders and at least two other employees of Cheer Savannah."

When defendant Britt eventually released her grip on Reghan's throat, it left fingernail marks and scratches behind, the girl's mother says.

Then, "[w]hen Reghan Mahany subsequently performed in a manner satisfactory to Defendant Britt ... Britt commented in front of other competitors and coaches that she should choke Reghan more often."

"That is untrue and a very sad twist of the truth," Britt told Courthouse News. She said she's owned Cheer Savannah for sixteen years and that the organization currently has 350 children cheering for it.

Britt said Reghan had tried out for the team and didn't make it, which is why her mother filed the lawsuit.

"What happens in this sport is that when the child doesn't make the team, they can become disgruntled. ... There are always going to be people unhappy. We love Reghan and have coached her since she was five years old. We hate that things didn't work out and it had to come to this," Britt said.

"Sometimes parents ask us to cross the line, to be parent, a disciplinarian, and a role model," Britt continued. "You start trying to raise other people's children. Reghan's mother asked us to help manage her teenage daughter ... We loved her. We tried our best."

Britt added that stories like this make her question whether she wants to continue doing her job.

"This seems like a sort of vendetta," she said.

C. Dorian Britt (no relation to the defendant), of Karsman, McKenzie & Hart in Savannah, represents the plaintiff.

He told Courthouse News that a lawsuit was filed against Britt several years ago for "somewhat similar conduct," and that her alleged behavior, "seems to be a pattern."

"She accused a sixteen year old cheerleader of being a whore, and white trash. It was all verbal and in front of her teammates," the attorney said.

This prior case was filed in June 2009 by Colleen Grier, the mother of cheerleader Kaitlyn Grier.

Grier claimed in the complaint that, "Britt made several false and disaparaging remarks about Katie Grier and her family in front of her fellow Cheer Savannah members. ... Defendant Britt also verbally threatened Katie Grier with bodily harm and made gestures indicating that she would follow through with her threat."

Robert Bartley Turner, of Savage, Turner, Pinson & Karsman in Savannah, represented Grier and told Courthouse News that the settlement the parties reached was confidential and he therefore could not comment further.

Mahany seeks compensatory and punitive damages on claims of negligence, assault, battery, and the infliction of emotional distress.

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