A grand jury in Waco, Texas did not charge Heath Nielsen, the former head media-relations professional for Baylor’s football team, for assaulting a reporter on the field after the Bears’ game against TCU on Nov. 5. Nielsen was charged last November with a misdemeanor assault.
“The jury returned a no bill, which means they refused to indict the case," Nielsen's attorney, Michelle Simpson Tuegel, said via ESPN. "The evidence was not consistent with what the complainant alleged. It did not show an assault as the accuser had claimed."
KWTX reported last November that associate athletic director Heath Nielsen is free on bond and has been “conspicuously absent for the past several weeks” at Baylor events. The charge he faces, assault with bodily injury, is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas, according to KWTX.
He was booked on Nov. 8, according to the report. He’s Baylor’s associate athletics director for communications and football sports information director, making him the team’s primary contact for media members. A voicemail left for Nielsen by SB Nation wasn’t immediately returned Monday night.
James McBride, a sportswriter for The Blaze News in Keller, Texas, said he had taken a picture of a Baylor player on the field after the game. He said an altercation happened afterward.
According to the arrest warrant affidavit the station obtained, Nielsen “walked up to McBride on the right, grabbed McBride by the throat with his right hand, squeezed and pushed him away from the football player.” Nielsen “had visible scratches and complained of pain around his throat,” according to the affidavit.
The KWTX report includes photos of McBride’s neck with red marks on it.
Statement from Baylor associate AD Heath Nielsen's attorney. She also represents former Bears DE Shawn Oakman in his sexual assault case pic.twitter.com/gU5Q7Ebvle— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) November 22, 2016
The affidavit says a player and McBride asked Nielsen about the problem, to which he said the reporter was “abusing his privileges.”
Baylor’s official media policy says “no interviews will be conducted on the field” after games, but it doesn’t say anything about photography permission.
McBride’s account aligns with the affidavit. According to KWTX, he says:
“I had asked the player if I could take a photo with him, he said ‘yes,’” McBride said Monday.
“I was leaning back to take the photo. I heard somebody who I didn’t know at this point in time yell from my right-hand side, saying ‘no interviews on the field,’” he said.
“About that time they came in and tomahawk-chopped, trying to knock the phone that I had taken the picture with out of my hand. They were unsuccessful in trying to do that, and when they couldn’t do that they came up and they grabbed my throat, and I pulled back. Whenever I looked up I saw that it was Heath Nielsen,” he said.
Right after the incident, McBride said, Nielsen told him, “You’ll never f****** work in this business again. You’re abusing your privileges on the field.”
Stadium cameras recorded the altercation, a spokesperson for The Blaze News told KWTX.
Per ESPN, Neilson was dismissed by the school.
In 2014, the Big 12 fined Nielsen $1,000 for tweets critical of the officiating in a game between Baylor and West Virginia.