Prosecutors yesterday dropped a misdemeanor battery charge against Westminster High School football coach Jeff Oeming, saying the coach was "legally required to take action to maintain an atmosphere of order and discipline" when he pinned one of his players to the ground.
The charge was lodged against the coach by star Owls receiver Micah Steven Shaffer a week after the incident occurred during a Labor Day practice session.
The state's attorney's office concluded that the coach's conduct did not rise "to the level of criminal battery," according to a statement read in Carroll District Court by Assistant State's Attorney Erin Danz.
Mr. Oeming's lawyer was pleased with the state's attorney's decision, he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
"It has always been my position that the conduct was not a crime under Maryland law," said Thomas C. Morrow, an attorney hired for Mr. Oeming by the Maryland State Teachers' Association.
According to the statement read by Ms. Danz, a disagreement arose between Mr. Oeming and Micah during practice on Labor Day.
The coach "believed the complainant was getting out of control, whereupon he physically acted in a manner to prevent an assault" while Micah was yelling profanity at him, Ms. Danz said.
"Considering all of the circumstances, the defendant, in his position, is not only entitled, but legally required, to take action to maintain an atmosphere of order and discipline among his students," she said.
Micah filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Oeming on Sept. 14.
In that complaint the football player wrote, "The coach approached me and grabbed me by my face mask and shook my head trying to force me to the ground. As I turned back to go into the locker room, he grabbed me, picked me up and threw me to the pavement."
Contacted at home yesterday afternoon, Micah declined to comment except to say that he had been informed by the state's attorney's office that the charge would be dropped.
Mr. Morrow said State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman conducted an investigation into the incident. Mr. Morrow was informed of Mr. Hickman's decision to drop the battery charge Tuesday afternoon.
Micah filed the criminal complaint after Maryland state police, who took a report from him after the fight, declined to file charges.
Had Mr. Oeming been convicted, his teaching and coaching jobs could have been in jeopardy, Mr. Morrow said.
After the fight, school officials took unspecified action against the coach but allowed him to continue coaching. Micah continued playing for the Owls.