School athlete charges coach Battery allegation stems from fight

October 25, 1992|By Darren M. Allen and Bill Free | Darren M. Allen and Bill Free,Staff Writer

A Westminster High football player has filed a criminal complaint against Owls coach Jeff Oeming as the result of an altercation between the two during a practice on Labor Day.

Wide receiver Micah Steven Shaffer claimed that the coach grabbed his face mask, shook his head and threw him to the ground during practice Sept. 7.

The claims are in a criminal complaint that Micah filed in Carroll County District Court Sept. 14.

He alleged that Mr. Oeming got angry at him after a pass play during the practice session.

"The coach approached me and grabbed me by my face mask and shook my head trying to force me to the ground," Micah said in the complaint. "As I turned back to go into the locker room, he grabbed me, picked me up and threw me to the pavement."

The coach put his forearm on the youth's chest, Micah claimed, and "after two to three minutes, he got off me and walked away."

He charged Mr. Oeming with battery, a misdemeanor. The coach is scheduled to stand trial Dec. 2.

State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said Friday that he is reviewing the case to decide whether to proceed with prosecuting the coach or drop the charge.

"I'm looking at it now, and I am talking to school officials, the parents and the student," State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman said Friday.

"As with all charges, it is within the discretion of the state's attorney's office to decide what we'll do."

Maryland State Police, who took a report from the player, declined to file charges earlier in September. Micah decided to apply for charges on his own several days later.

Reached by telephone Friday morning, the youth's mother declined to comment on the complaint, saying she had to talk to her attorney. She would not say who her attorney was.

There apparently is little dispute that an argument between Micah -- who currently is the third-best wide receiver in Carroll County with 10 catches for 195 yards and one touchdown -- and his coach occurred on Labor Day.

"The entire matter appears to be a misunderstanding, and it doesn't belong in criminal courts," said Thomas C. Morrow, an attorney hired by the Maryland State Teachers Association to represent Mr. Oeming.

"There is a certain assumption that if you're a football player, contact will occur not only among players but sometimes between players and the coach," Mr. Morrow said.

Micah was allegedly late for practice that day. When the coach questioned him, the star receiver apparently called Mr. Oeming an obscene name, according to a source who asked for anonymity.

The next day, there was a meeting between Mr. Oeming; Micah and his father; Bruce Cowan, the school system's physical education and athletics supervisor; and Sherri-Le Bream, Westminster High's principal.

A couple of days after the incident, Mr. Oeming told a reporter, "There was a problem, but we've got it straightened out." He would not confirm at that time what the "problem" was.

On Friday, he declined to comment on the matter and referred questions to county school officials.

"We're aware of the incident that took place," said William Rooney, the school system's personnel director. "We believe that the principal dealt with it in an appropriate manner, and, as far as we're concerned, it's a personal dispute between the student and the coach."

Asked if the action taken by Mrs. Bream was disciplinary in nature, Mr. Rooney said, "We have taken action, and we are satisfied with that action."

Mrs. Bream declined to comment on what action she took after the argument.

Mr. Oeming is in his fifth season as Owls head coach. In August, he resigned as the school's athletic director and said he wanted to devote more time to his jobs as head coach and social studies teacher.

Before coming to Westminster, he coached football at North Carroll High. Before that, he was an assistant wrestling coach at Liberty High.

If Mr. Oeming goes to trial and is convicted, he could face further action from the school system, officials said. However, school board policy forbids officials from taking any disciplinary action against Mr. Oeming simply because the criminal charges have been filed against him.

Mr. Rooney declined to say what types of actions would be taken against Mr. Oeming if he is convicted.

Meanwhile, Micah Shaffer is continuing to play on the Owls football team.

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