Amprey is accused of battering his wife Hearing is Tuesday on whether to extend restraining order

August 31, 1996|By Kate Shatzkin and Michael James | Kate Shatzkin and Michael James,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Jean Thompson contributed to this article.

Baltimore City Schools Superintendent Walter G. Amprey has been charged with battering his wife a week ago in an incident she says left her with bruises.

Freda Jones Amprey, the superintendent's wife and an employee of the city school system, claimed yesterday in a criminal summons that her husband "assaulted me and threw me to the ground" after he entered the couple's home in the 400 block of N. Chapelgate Lane about 4: 30 p.m. Aug. 24.

In the summons, Walter Amprey, 51, was ordered to appear in court Oct. 11 to face the common law charge.

A civil hearing on a temporary restraining order his wife obtained against him Monday is scheduled for Tuesday -- the day before the Baltimore school year begins.

Reached yesterday afternoon, Walter Amprey referred questions about the charge to his lawyer, Paul Mark Sandler. "It's private, and I'll just let him handle it," the superintendent said.

Amprey did say the domestic turmoil would not distract him from the beginning of school next week.

"There's nothing in the world that will keep me from bringing about positive change with girls and boys in our school system," he said. "You better believe it, I'll be there."

Sandler said last night that the schools chief did not batter his wife, though he decided "some time ago" to leave their marriage. "Dr. Amprey emphatically denies he assaulted or battered his wife," Sandler said. "He abhors such conduct and would never engage in such conduct."

Through a spokesman, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who was returning from the Democratic National Convention yesterday, declined to comment on the charge until he had more information about it.

Freda Amprey, 47, also declined to comment. But in a statement of charges, she wrote that her husband appeared to have been drinking when he threw her to the ground.

"When trying to talk with him, he became verbally abusing, telling me to 'shut the [expletive] up,' " she wrote in an application for a temporary restraining order filed this week in Baltimore District Court.

"I wanted to talk with him regarding a check that he had cashed that belonged to my doctor. When I took the cash from his wallet he came after me and began to strike me and fight me and threw me onto the ground -- after I had released the money to him," the statement said.

Sam Ringgold, a city police spokesman, said an officer went to the Ampreys' home a week ago after Freda Amprey called 911.

"When the officer arrived, [Freda Amprey] stated they were having a verbal altercation and he pushed her and she fell to the floor," Ringgold said. "The officer didn't see any visible injuries. He then made her aware of her rights to obtain [the restraining order] and to seek out a warrant."

The officer said in a police report that he could not detect any signs of alcohol affecting Walter Amprey, who appeared calm.

On Monday, Freda Amprey went to the Southwestern District police station and spoke with representatives of the domestic violence unit, Ringgold said.

A source said the unit photographed bruises on Freda Amprey's leg, which she claimed she received during the altercation with her husband.

The temporary restraining order, granted Monday by Baltimore District Judge Ben C. Clyburn, forbids Walter Amprey from contacting his wife. Papers were served on the superintendent at his father's house in West Baltimore.

On Tuesday, a judge will decide whether to extend the order or change its conditions.

In the meantime, the restraining order leaves Amprey in a unique position -- he cannot visit one of the buildings he oversees as superintendent. The order stipulates that he must stay away from 501 N. Athol Ave., which is the Edmondson-Westside High School complex where his wife works.

"As far as I'm concerned, the job and his personal life are separate," said school board Commissioner Charles L. Maker, chairman of the board's personnel committee and a friend of the Ampreys.

"As long as we didn't have any indication of issues in his personal life affecting his ability to run the schools, we would consider them as separate," Maker said. "I'd have to say I have seen nothing that would indicate a problem and nothing to indicate a drinking problem."

Freda Amprey, who makes more than $65,000 a year as head of the school system's Employee Assistance and Wellness Program, has been in trouble with the law before. She was charged with common-law battery two years ago after a social worker on loan to her department accused her of wrenching personal notes from her left hand. The charge was placed on an inactive docket after both parties and prosecutors agreed to do so.

Walter Amprey's decision to hire Freda Jones on Feb. 8, 1993, before she became his third wife, has drawn criticism from the teachers union and, privately, from many school employees. Some said employees would be reluctant to discuss workplace concerns with the Employee Assistance Program out of fear that Freda Amprey would tell her husband.

Pub Date: 8/31/96

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