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Terpko assault charge dropped

Ingrid Mezo
The Gazette

(7/27) Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott Rolle dropped the second-degree assault charge against Thurmont Commissioner Ron Terpko on Tuesday.

Rolle said he believed that Terpko slapped his son with an open fist, rather than struck him with a closed fist, as reported by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

‘‘I looked at the current state of Maryland law, which says that a parent has the right to use corporal punishment so long as it’s not unreasonable or excessive under the circumstances," Rolle said Wednesday. ‘‘That means that if the parent did not intend to injure the child, then that’s the law."

Attorney Norman Usiak issued a written statement on Wednesday on behalf of Terpko.

‘‘I wish to express an appreciation for the disciplined and judicious decision by the Office of the State’s Attorney to end, sooner rather than later, something which weighed very heavily upon Mr. Terpko, his family, and his reputation," Usiak wrote.

‘‘The termination of its prosecution of Ron Terpko brings to a rightful conclusion. ... I sincerely hope that this unfortunate event will never be held against him."

Terpko was arrested on June 14 for hitting his 13-year-old son in the face while the boy was handcuffed. The boy and two others had been arrested for vandalism just prior to the incident. They had destroyed at least 13 mailboxes on Graceham, Old Kiln and Old Frederick roads, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

‘‘Ron Terpko was called out around 3:30 in the morning," Rolle said. ‘‘He was told by the police that his son had taken his car out, and allegedly smashed some mailboxes with a baseball bat. Again, he had a conversation with his son. He slapped his son."

Rolle said the prosecution was unlikely to win a criminal case due to reasonable doubt. A Thurmont Police Department officer had reported that Terpko slapped his son, whereas a Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy reported that Terpko hit his son with a closed fist.

‘‘The Thurmont police officer who was right next to him wrote that in his reports," Rolle said. ‘‘The deputy who thought he saw a closed fist was much farther away. That’s reasonable doubt. You’re never going to win your criminal case with those conflicting statements."

Rolle said that photographs taken by the defense a day or two later showed ‘‘no sign of injury whatsoever."

‘‘I would think if someone used a closed fist, there would be swelling, a bruise, a black eye, a fat lip, some injury," Rolle said. ‘‘There was some very slight redness around his lower eye, but that looks like crying to me, and the report said the kid was profusely crying. There is redness, but it’s not an injury."

Rolle stated that his function as state’s attorney was to determine whether a crime was committed, not to determine proper parenting skills. At the same time, Rolle was mindful of precedent.

‘‘If the child had been five years old and spilled milk at a birthday party, it might have been different," Rolle said. ‘‘This was not an easy decision."

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