Baltimore school cop who slapped, kicked student dodges child abuse felony charges

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A Baltimore school police officer who was caught on a viral video slapping and kicking a teenager has avoided felony child abuse charges. The officer and his partner, who observed the abuse, now face lesser charges of assault and misconduct in office.

The Baltimore state’s attorney’s office dropped the second-degree child abuse charges against officer Anthony C. Spence, because they were not found to be “appropriate.”

“After obtaining all the facts and analyzing them based on Maryland case law, Pope v. State, as well as the applicable criminal statute, we have determined the defendants in these cases did not have temporary care or custody of the victim, therefore the child abuse charges are not appropriate,” spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie said in a statement.

Spence, 44, has been under investigation since early March, when a video posted on Facebook showed him slapping a 16-year-old across the face three times before kicking him outside the REACH Partnership School in Clifton Park.

Spence’s partner, Saverna Bias, 53, was seen standing nearby, reportedly encouraging Spence to “smack him because he has too much mouth.”

Warren Brown, Spence’s lawyer, initially said that his client had been responding to a report of an intruder on the school grounds. However, it was later confirmed that the teenager was a student there. Brown then claimed that the student had spat on Spence before the officer slapped and kicked him.

Bias’ attorney, Steven Levin, said on Thursday that the video showed his client hadn’t done anything to the teenager.

“There is no basis for these charges,” Levin said.

Lauren Geisser, the attorney representing the boy and his parents, said that the student, “a minor child,” was “injured and his family is traumatized by what happened.”

Geisser also noted that the teen had to go to the hospital to receive treatment for injuries to his ribs and face after the incident.

On March 10, both Spence and Bias were charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office and put on paid administrative leave. Spence was also indicted for second-degree child abuse, a felony charge that eventually resulted in his pay being suspended.

In reaction to the child abuse charges being dropped, Spence’s attorney told WBAL TV news, “The significance of that, quite frankly, is that now he will begin to receive his paycheck, because he’s still suspended, but at least it will be with pay. Up until now, it was suspension without pay, because of the felony charge.” 

Brown said that he and his client “fully expect” to convince a jury that Spence and Bias’ behavior was “more than appropriate,” and that the case was “brought on by the vile act of this alleged victim,” who he suggested was an example of an “antisocial, lead-poisoned, irrational, angry, mired in poverty and despair” child.

“It’s not ‘Leave It to Beaver.’ You’re dealing with a tough group of people,” he said, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Geisser is expecting Spence to be convicted for the “egregious acts” caught in the video. Spence’s arraignment is scheduled for May 6.