At a press conference Monday morning, Anne Arundel Police Chief Timothy Altomare and Cpl. Jacklyn Davis discuss the arrest of county Sheriff Ron Bateman on Sunday evening.
Anne Arundel County Sheriff Ronald S. Bateman planned to return to work Tuesday after being arrested on a misdemeanor charge that he assaulted his wife. County officials have asked a special prosecutor to handle the case.
County police charged Bateman with second-degree assault after they were called to his Pasadena home Sunday night following an argument he had with his wife, Elsie. Police said they observed injuries to her face. In a statement Monday, the third-term sheriff "categorically" denied ever assaulting his wife.
"We had an emotional family dispute which led the police to come to our home," Bateman said. "My wife and I fully cooperated with the police. Simply, no criminal actions took place, just a very emotional argument between a husband and wife."
Bateman, 54, said he would return to work "in an administrative capacity only." Col. Paul R. Tabor will handle day-to-day operations of the office until the case is adjudicated, the sheriff's office said.
Bateman, first elected in 2006, took a day of paid leave Monday. He will still handle matters related to the budget, personnel and regulations, Tabor said.
"I expect him in tomorrow morning," Tabor said Monday. "He will not be carrying his weapon, so therefore he won't be serving full capacity as a law-enforcement officer."
The sheriff's salary is about $133,000 a year, according to county data.
A spokesman for County Executive Steve Schuh said Schuh is troubled by the allegations but that the legal process must play out.
"The county executive finds these allegations very disturbing, but it's an issue that will be decided by our judicial system, and we are confident he will be treated fairly," said Owen McEvoy, Schuh's spokesman. "Right now as it stands, according to the law, there's nothing preventing him from coming back to work."
Under the state constitution, an elected official can be removed from office if convicted of a felony, or of a misdemeanor related to public duties.
Bateman said if a deputy sheriff were charged with second-degree assault in a domestic incident, he would be assigned administrative duties and his police powers would be suspended. "I will not be treated any differently than I would treat one of my deputies," he said.
The sheriff's office, which has about 75 sworn deputies, oversees courthouse security and warrant service in Anne Arundel County, including serving domestic violence papers.
According to a statement of charges, police went toBateman's home in the Riviera Beach neighborhood about 7:30 p.m. Sunday, where Elsie Bateman told police that her husband had assaulted her. She told police they argued after she came home from dinner.
She reported to police that he told her to leave the house, but that she didn't have any money. She tried to grab his money clip, which she said angered him. According to charging documents, shesaid Bateman pushed her onto a bed. Her teenage son told police he came into the room and saw Bateman using both hands to hold down his wife, police said.
Elsie Bateman said her husband "threw her into a wall in the craft room and she hit the back of her head," and he "hit her in the left side of her face and mouth," charging documents state. The son told police his mother slapped Ronald Bateman, apparently in self-defense, police said.
Police observed slight redness along Elsie Bateman's left cheek near her left eye and a small swollen spot on the left side of her lower lip, they wrote in charging papers. The blood vessels in her left eye "appeared to be busted."
Ronald Bateman had been drinking and acknowledged arguing with his wife, according to charging documents. He told police he never struck his wife, but held her down on the bed to try to retrieve his money clip.
Elsie Bateman, who had called 911, said she did not need medical treatment, police said.
Anne Arundel County police — a separate department from the county sheriff's office — are conducting the investigation.
"We still have a lot of homework to do to present this case like we would any other case, as it relates to what occurred, how it happened, and how we present it to the state's attorney's office for prosecution," Police Chief Timothy Altomare said at a news conference.
A post on Elsie Bateman's Facebook page Monday defended her husband. It read: "I am fine and will be fine. Secondly, so is my husband Ron Bateman. ... Ron is a wonderful man and an amazing sheriff. So if you are that perfect person that has never raised your voice or had an argument then by all means go live your life perfect and stay out of ours."
Michaele Cohen, executive of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, said prosecutors in Maryland can move forward with a domestic violence case without a victim's cooperation. They can use evidence such as photos of the victim's injuries and reports from the scene.
"Obviously if you don't have the cooperation of the victim, it makes it more difficult, but you can do evidence-based prosecution," she said.
She said police appear to be taking the incident "very seriously." With Bateman returning to work, "I think that what's important is that the public feel confident that domestic violence cases are going to be handled appropriately," she said.
"We would hope that they would be reassured that they can still come forward for help," she said.
Cohen said it is common for a family to want privacy, but domestic violence should be seen as a public health issue.
"This is a very serious legal and public health matter, and people can be killed or seriously injured in these situations," she said. "As a community, we need to address this. And it's not something that should be just behind closed doors."
Bateman began his career as a cadet with the Anne Arundel County Police Department at age 18. He worked there for 23 years, in positions from patrol to the narcotics and homicide units.
In 2003, he joined the sheriff's office as a chief deputy under former Sheriff George Johnson. He was elected sheriff as a Democrat in 2006, 2010 and 2014.
In October, Bateman announced he would switch his party affiliation to Republican. He said the party's views on issues such as the death penalty, Second Amendment rights and immigration were more in line with his own.
On Monday, County Councilman John Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, defended Bateman, saying "I'll support him all the way to the end."
At this point, Grasso said, the case is "all accusations, that's all it is."
"Personally, I think people need to mind their own business," he said. "We don't know the facts. ... I'm not one that's going to speculate on someone that's a great man."
Several other county council members said they did not have enough information on the incident to comment.
Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Christina Jedra, Lauren Loricchio, Ben Weathers and Amanda Yeager contributed to this article.