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Terpko’s trial date set for July

Thurmont commissioner charged with child abuse, second-degree assault

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(6/22) Thurmont Commissioner Ronald Terpko is set to go on trial July 13 on child abuse and assault charges after he was arrested for hitting his 13-year-old son in the face.

Terpko was arrested last week by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, police said.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Bailey said Friday that the boy, who had been arrested for vandalism, was handcuffed when Terpko ‘‘struck him with a closed fist" in the presence of a sheriff’s deputy in the early morning of June 14.

Bailey said the case has been referred to Child Protective Services.

Terpko, who is in his second term as a town commissioner, referred questions to his attorney, Norman Usiak.

‘‘We are aware that there are witnesses who were present that observed what occurred, and that will testify to what they actually saw — and that was a slap, not a closed fist," Usiak said Monday.

Bailey said the deputy investigating the case took photographs of the boy at the scene, but would not say whether the boy had any bruises or other physical signs of abuse.

‘‘Those photographs were placed into evidence and will be used as part of the investigation," she said.

Usiak said his office has taken pictures daily of the boy, which will be entered into evidence.

‘‘The only thing that this kid got was a lesson out of it," Usiak said. ‘‘There was no lasting effect other than a lesson."

Assistant Frederick County State’s Attorney Kirstin Brown said the law allows punishment of up to 15 years in prison for second-degree child abuse — which is a felony — and up to 10 years imprisonment for second-degree assault.

Two separate accounts released June 15 by the Sheriff’s Office gave the following account of the incidents:

Deputies contacted Terpko just before 3 a.m. June 14 and asked him to pick up a juvenile who had been arrested earlier that morning.

Police had responded to Ironmaster Drive in Thurmont to investigate a call from a resident who said his mailbox had been destroyed. Police identified 13 damaged mailboxes on Graceham, Old Kiln and Old Frederick roads.

Police arrested and charged three youths — 13, 15 and 16 — for vandalism on private property. The 13-year-old was also charged with unauthorized removal of a motor vehicle and driving without a license.

The youths were released to their parents.

A statement released by Usiak late Friday said the Terpko family was ‘‘saddened and disappointed" by both arrests.

‘‘We would first like to convey that we feel terrible that our son damaged the property of fellow members of our community," the Terpko family statement said.

‘‘[He] is good kid and we can ensure you that we [are] saddened and disappointed to find out that he would jeopardize the safety of himself and others by driving a car when he is not yet 16 years old. [W]e are doing everything we can to make sure things are made right," the statement said.

‘‘As far as the charges against Ron, we are very disappointed to find out that such a private matter has drawn such attention," the statement continued. ‘‘We appreciate all of the calls of support we have received from the community. When all of the facts come out, we are confident that our peers, particularly parents, will know that we did not do anything criminal. We ask that the public would respect our family’s privacy during this time."

Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns said the town charter does not indicate what would happen to an elected official who is arrested, charged or convicted of a crime.

‘‘There is nothing in the old charter that would require a forfeiture of office," Burns said Tuesday. ‘‘There is, however a section on the new draft charter. It’s just a simple sentence that the mayor or a commissioner shall immediately forfeit his or her office upon conviction of a felony."

Burns said the draft charter was on the agenda for town officials to discuss during the first town meeting in August. Burns added that he expected the revised charter to be on the books in October.

‘‘I’m not getting involved in this," he said of Terpko’s arrest. ‘‘This is not town business, this is personal business, and everyone is innocent until proven guilty ... That’s what judges get paid for."

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