Clash marks trial's start

Man is charged with staging illegal wrestling match

Ring was in his back yard

Prosecutor wants mention of his N.Y. rescue work barred

November 14, 2001|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Bruce Daniel Bouch's trial on charges of allowing a wrestling ring in his back yard began yesterday with a motion by the prosecution to exclude mention of his efforts to help victims of the terrorist attacks in New York City on Sept.11.

Bouch, a Carroll County volunteer firefighter, was honored by the county commissioners last month for his rescue efforts. He and 16 others from Gamber spent two days digging in the rubble for survivors and sleeping at the scene.

"I have a right to ask him who he is and what he does," said George E. Rippel Jr., Bouch's attorney.

Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer L. Loew said, "Character is not an issue here; 9-11 is not an issue. I will submit Mr. Bouch is a good guy." Loew said she is concerned that the jury would regard Bouch's testimony favorably because of his efforts to help others in New York. In this case, Loew said, she is opposed to "wrapping yourself in the American flag."

Bouch, 34, of Sykesville has been charged with promoting an illegal contest Sept. 30 last year and with allowing three unlicensed young men to wrestle in a ring the young men built in Bouch's back yard, endangering their safety as participants in exhibitions under the name Ground Breaking Wrestling.

Four other adults were charged. Charges against one were dropped, and three received probation before judgment in Carroll County District Court, Loew said.

Bouch's stepson, Greg Skipper, who uses the name "Mr. Excellent" in the ring, was 17 at the time and was charged as a juvenile with helping to promote the matches. The outcome of his case was unavailable.

Unlike the others, Bouch exercised his right to a jury trial in Carroll County Circuit Court. He could be sentenced to up to six months in prison and fined $2,000 on each of the five charges against him if he is found guilty.

Bouch, director of operations for Magna Card Inc of Owings Mills, will testify when the defense case continues today, Rippel said.

After the jury was selected yesterday morning, Loew began her opening statement by saying, "Today's case is all about backyard wrestling." Bouch might have built the ring for "good clean fun," she said, but it did not meet state safety requirements, he was not a licensed promoter, and he knew that most of the young men were not licensed wrestlers. No one younger than 18 may be licensed to wrestle in Maryland.

"It's important to say we are prosecuting this case because people could get hurt," Loew said.

Rippel said, "I've never had a case like this." He said the Maryland business licensing regulations that the prosecution contends apply in this case typically apply to businesses such as cemeteries, amusement parks and real estate agents, not to people's actions in their back yards.

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