Baltimore County councilman won't face charges for breaking up school fight

State's attorney: Gardina used 'necessary force'

April 08, 2010|By Bryan P. Sears | Patuxent Publishing

Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina will not face charges for his role in breaking up a fight between students at a high school where he was a substitute teacher.

The decision was made by the state's attorney's office in Baltimore, to which the case had been referred by the county state's attorney's office because of its political nature.

Deputy State's Attorney Haven Kodeck said he reviewed the evidence, including a cell phone video shot by a student, and concluded that Gardina should not be charged.

"If a person doesn't have criminal intent, then we're not going to charge them with a crime," Kodeck said. "Mr. Gardina was breaking up a fight and used necessary force to break that fight up."

Gardina left a long-term substitute teaching job at Patapsco High School in late February and no longer works for the county schools.

Gardina, who taught engineering and technology, intervened in a fight Feb. 23 between two students who were throwing coins in his classroom.

Gardina restrained one of the students, who was later found to have marks on his neck, according to county police.

Police, school officials and the county Department of Social Services looked into the matter, as is standard in cases involving teachers and students, police said. Gardina was not charged in the case.

"Based on a review by the Baltimore City state's attorney's office, we're not pursuing charges," said Baltimore County Deputy State's Attorney Leo Ryan.

Gardina declined to comment on the incident, but said Monday that he was "very satisfied" with the outcome of the city state's attorney's review.

Police had reported that Gardina had pulled two students apart and that one of the students was sent to the nurse's office. The Police Department's school resource officer reported that he saw four red marks on the left side of the boy's neck.

Elisha Ellis, who has identified her son, Devin Moss, 15, as that student, said her son complained the next day of a sore neck and was treated at a walk-in medical facility. The teen was suspended from school for three days, Ellis said.

Students used cell phone cameras to record the incident. Ellis said she obtained one of the videos, which she said shows the exchange between her son and Gardina. Ellis said she provided a 20-second video to police and prosecutors.

Gardina declined to discuss the video, but upon viewing it with a reporter, confirmed that it showed him and Moss.

Ellis said she filed a complaint with a county court commissioner. However, by law, criminal complaints filed against teachers must be reviewed by the state's attorney's office, Ryan said. The commissioner rejected the complaint because of the review by city prosecutors.

Ellis said she hasn't ruled out a civil suit.

"I don't want to let it go," she said. "I think it's totally unfair. Because of his power as a councilman, nothing has happened."

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