Wade Campbell shook his head, silently mouthing the word "no" as each of the Ramsey County jurors affirmed Friday they found him guilty of threatening to shoot his son's Little League coach "like a dog" after a dispute at a St. Paul game.

Campbell, 47, turned to his family sitting behind him and quietly said, "It's wrong, it's wrong."

The conviction for felony terroristic threats calls for a stayed sentence of a year and a day, but District Judge Michael DeCourcy sent the father to jail until his sentencing March 26.

"It's for your safety, as well as the safety of others," DeCourcy told Campbell.

Afterward, as the judge was leaving the courthouse, he said he has no knowledge about Campbell threatening or being threatened by anyone since the initial incidents. Still, DeCourcy said, "there is a lot of talk out there in the community. This is for the best."

The case stems from incidents beginning at a Little League game June 22 at the Parkway field in the Dayton's Bluff area. According to testimony and court records, Campbell berated his son after he struck out. He became belligerent when asked to leave the dugout and made racist comments about coach Noe Ambriz and his relatives -- "Send that guy back to Mexico" and "Get a job" -- as Campbell climbed into the stands.

Campbell later returned to the dugout and threatened to punch the opposing coach when he tried to get Campbell out.

Over the next two days, a series of incidents unfolded and culminated with an angry phone call to Ambriz at his home.

The Ambrizes couldn't be reached to comment Friday night.

During the trial, Campbell admitted spouting off to Ambriz and said he was sorry for the racial statements, but he said he never intended to shoot anybody or anything.

David Shamla, the defense attorney, tried to cast doubt on the truthfulness of testimony from Ambriz and his wife during his closing argument Friday morning.

"This case is not about hate, Little League baseball or coaching," Shamla said. "It's about one issue, who's telling the truth about what happened.

"Mr. Campbell was honest when he told you what he said," Shamla said. Ambriz and his wife, on the other hand, repeatedly said they felt no anger toward Campbell.

"Can you really believe they felt no anger toward Mr. Campbell after what happened at the ball field? Even after the supposed threat to shoot him? Can you believe that?"

Prosecutor Mark Hammer, in his closing argument, portrayed Campbell as a man who wants to control every aspect of his life, from his family to how his children play their games.

"The one haven we have for safety and peace and quiet is our home," Hammer told the jury. "The defendant is not on trial because of an incident at the Little League game. He's on trial for terroristic threats for what happened at the Ambrizes' home.

"The defendant told them he was on his way to their home to shoot them," the prosecutor said.

"There is no evidence from anyone that Noe Ambriz was angry," he said. "Maybe he should have been. Jodie Campbell testified that Noe called her to apologize [for calling the police]. ... Does that sound angry and spiteful? It's just not in his character, not who he is."

No bias crime found

Hammer had asked the jury to find Campbell guilty of a bias crime, a verdict that could have resulted in a sentence of up to five years in prison, for threatening Ambriz and his family "in whole or in part" because of his Hispanic ancestry.

St. Paul police officer William Beaudette testified that Campbell made a statement before his arrest on June 24 that, "You know a lot of people call me racist. I'm not. But these people come here and they think they can get anything they want."

The jury decided that Campbell did not act because of bigotry. When their "no" verdict was read on that point, the Little League dad flashed a small smile to his family.

Then the judge had him taken away.

jwalsh@startribune.com • 651-298-1541 ppheifer@startribune.com • 651-298-1551