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Misconduct charge against teacher is dropped


Prosecutors dropped a criminal charge yesterday against a 38-year-old Anne Arundel County teacher who allegedly put a blind and handicapped student into a storage closet in December.

Prosecutors plan to charge the teacher again after some legal issues are resolved.

Assistant State's Attorney Robert J. Bittman said he dropped the charge of misconduct in office against Susan Hope Pagano because he plans to appeal Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr.'s dismissal of a charge of obstruction of justice against Ms. Pagano.

Mr. Bittman said he wants the Court of Special Appeals to rule on whether Judge Goudy should have dismissed that charge before he tries the case.

The judge dismissed the charge June 10 after Ms. Pagano's lawyer, Roland Walker, argued that there was no basis for the charge because the case was not in court at the time Ms. Pagano allegedly misled police investigators.

If the appellate court rules that Judge Goudy was wrong, Ms. Pagano may be re-indicted by a county grand jury and tried on both counts, Mr. Bittman said.

"We had a very strong case on [the obstruction charge], and I don't see any reason to just throw it away like that," he said.

He said the appellate court could take six to nine months to rule on his appeal.

Nancy Jane Adams, a spokeswoman for the county schools, said Ms. Pagano will remain on leave with pay while the appeal is considered. She earns $42,958 a year.

"Until it's resolved in the courts, that's all we can do," she said.

Ms. Pagano, who lives in the 6100 block of Encounter Row in Columbia, taught at the Ruth Parker Eason School on Old Mill Road in Millersville.

She was indicted March 28 on charges that she put a 16-year-old girl into a school storage closet on Dec. 10, 1993.

The girl, who is blind, uses a wheelchair and has been severely handicapped since a childhood accident. She suffered cuts and bruises on her arms as a result of being put into the closet, according to a police report.

Mr. Walker called yesterday's decision by the prosecution "very astute."

"Why tie up a jury for two weeks on a case when some of the legal issues still have to be resolved," he said.

The victim's father said he remains angry and exasperated at State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee's handling of the case. He said Mr. Weathersbee should have sought indictments on more serious charges, such as battery and child abuse.

He also questioned Mr. Weathersbee's decision to let Ms. Pagano testify before the grand jury.

"I cannot believe what's going on with this case," he said.

Mr. Weathersbee said the grand jury makes its own decisions.

"How do you know we didn't [seek child abuse and battery indictments]? We laid the facts of the case out and explained the law to them, and they take it from there," he said.

The victim's father also released a copy of the police report yesterday.

The report says Ms. Pagano admitted putting the victim into a closet for about 90 minutes. The report also says she initially tried to mislead police investigators into thinking the victim had no marks on her arms when the girl left school Dec. 10.

Ms. Pagano also is alleged to have told her colleagues not to tell police about the marks on the victim's arms, which medical personnel at North Arundel Hospital described as "grappling marks," according to the police report.

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