Councilman convicted of battery


Harford County Councilman Mark S. Decker was convicted of battery yesterday -- but acquitted of a sex charge -- in a case stemming from physical contact with a female custodian in a courthouse hallway last year.

Judge John Grason Turnbull II, who heard the case that was moved to Baltimore County Circuit Court, cited conflicting testimony in finding Mr. Decker, 35, not guilty of a fourth-degree sex offense. The custodian alleged that he had touched her breast.

"I'm not Solomon, I can't look into a crystal ball," Judge Turnbull said of the differing accounts.

The part-time custodian -- a 38-year old Havre de Grace resident who, in alleging a sex offense, was not identified by The Sun -- no longer works for the county. She said she was working outside the Harford council chambers the evening of Feb. 7, 1995, when Mr. Decker touched her arm to inspect a badge on her sleeve, grabbed a name pin above her breast and grabbed her breast.

Mr. Decker maintained during the trial that he touched her sleeve and asked about the patch on it, but did not remember a name tag and denied touching her breast.

Mr. Decker's attorney, Augustus F. Brown, called about a dozen witnesses during the two-day trial -- many of them county employees who testified that Mr. Decker showed honesty and respect toward others and had a reputation as a family man dedicated to serving the community.

Mr. Brown also sought to show in his closing arguments that the victim's story escalated from a touch on the arm when she first told authorities, to a grab of the breast at the trial.

"The court believes the pin was touched," Judge Turnbull said. He defined battery as an offensive touch to a person or extension of that person, such as clothing.

He said testimony of both Mr. Decker and the victim, as well as that of two witnesses, convinced him battery had occurred.

But on the sex offense charge, he said the conflicts in testimony "leave this court in a quandary."

Sentencing on the battery conviction will take place later.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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