Carroll County jury acquits Sykesville man in wrestling ring case

Stepson, friends used backyard structure to stage free exhibitions

November 15, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

A Sykesville man on trial for allowing a wrestling ring in his back yard - so his stepson and friends could stage shows mimicking television wrestlers - was found not guilty by a Carroll County jury yesterday.

The 12-member jury deliberated nearly three hours yesterday afternoon before finding Bruce Daniel Bouch, 34, not guilty of promoting an illegal contest Sept. 30 of last year and allowing three unlicensed young men to wrestle in his back yard in exhibitions.

At issue was that Bouch lacked a license to promote wrestling and many of the young men who participated were not licensed to wrestle by the state.

"We're very pleased. I think Mr. Bouch was correct in taking a stand on this," said George E. Rippel Jr., Bouch's attorney. "He always felt this was a recreation and not a business. They were not aware of the law."

If Bouch had been found guilty, he could have been sentenced to up to six months in prison and fined $2,000 on each of the five charges.

Bouch told the jury yesterday that he was initially against building the ring in his 3/4 -acre yard because he was concerned about safety. He changed his mind once he realized the group, Ground Breaking Wrestling, was serious about its pastime.

A skilled carpenter, Bouch took over the construction to ensure the ring was built correctly and had the boys agree to a set of guidelines for its use.

"If there was to be an injury, that was the end - the ring was coming down," said Bouch, who works as an operations director at Magna Card Inc. of Owings Mills and is a volunteer firefighter and rescue technician with the Gamber fire department. He was one of 17 Gamber firefighters honored by the Carroll commissioners last month for helping with rescue efforts in New York City after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In addition, Bouch's wife, Debbie, received consent from the parents of the boys, made sure the would-be wrestlers worked under the guidance of a local professional wrestler who was licensed and allowed the exhibitions to take place only when both Debbie and Bruce Bouch were home.

No young men were injured during the exhibitions, which started in August 1999 and went on for one year, Bruce Bouch said.

"This is all about safety," Jennifer L. Lowe, assistant state's attorney, told the jury in her closing argument yesterday afternoon.

Debbie and Bruce Bouch and Debbie's son, Gregory Skipper, 19, told the court yesterday they did not know they needed licenses to run the wrestling exhibitions in their back yard. They said they never charged spectators admission and made no profit on the Saturday night events.

Two defense witnesses called to testify yesterday were young men who were friends of Skipper's and wrestled in the exhibitions.

"As far as we were concerned we were just a couple of guys goofing off in the back yard," said Andrew Gordon, 19, of Reisterstown.

Four other adults were charged in the case. Charges against one were dropped, and three received probation before judgment in Carroll County District Court, Lowe said. Bouch was the only person charged to choose a jury trial.

Skipper said in court he wants to start his own professional wrestling organization someday. He and his mother recently incorporated a company under the name Ground Breaking Wrestling Inc.

They have contacted the state athletic commission about applying for the appropriate licenses.

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