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Prosecutors drop child-abuse charges

For the first time in a month, 12-year-old Freddy Duthoy is back at home in Edgewater with his parents.

In a case that drew national attention, James and Mary Duthoy were arrested July 19 and charged with child abuse for allowing Freddy and his friend to ride in the trunk of the family car. At a bail-review hearing last month, a judge ordered that the Duthoys have no unsupervised contact with their youngest son.

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But this week, Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee dropped all criminal charges against the Edgewater parents. He pointed to a lack of physical evidence that the children had been abused.

Yesterday, James Duthoy expressed frustration that charges were brought against him and his wife in the first place.

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"The county took a decent family and tore us apart," he said.

The charges arose from the July 19 incident. Freddy and his friend Jimmy Wright, 11, had asked to ride home in the trunk of the family's 1992 Pontiac Bonneville after both boys' families had gone to dinner at Calypso Bay restaurant on Deale Road.

Onlookers called police after seeing the boys hop into the trunk, and Anne Arundel County police officers caught up with the family about 20 minutes later in the parking lot of a Mayo Road liquor store.

Officers, who said the boys were "flushed red and sweating," charged the parents with child abuse, reckless endangerment and second-degree assault.

In charging documents against the couple, police said the boys had been locked in the trunk. James Duthoy didn't dispute this yesterday, but he said he "wasn't too worried about them" because the trunk is large and carpeted and has a ski hole that allowed him to talk with the boys.

Jimmy Wright's parents, longtime friends of the Duthoys, were not angry about the incident and have called the arrests "ridiculous."

Weathersbee said yesterday the criminal charges issued by police didn't match up with the incident. If convicted of child abuse, the Duthoys could have faced 15 years in prison each.

In addition to the lack of physical evidence, Weathersbee said reckless endangerment cannot be applied to cases involving motor vehicles. Of the assault, he said simply: "There was none."

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Police do not have to consult with prosecutors before issuing charges. Weathersbee said it's "not often" that prosecutors dismiss charges made by police.

The traffic violations, which do not carry jail time, will stand, Weathersbee said. The couple have been charged with seat belt violations and failure to ensure that young passengers were wearing seat belts.

Lt. Joseph Jordan, the Police Department's spokesman, did not return calls yesterday afternoon.

James Duthoy, a 46-year-old roofing company supervisor, said the family depleted its life savings during the short legal battle, spending "thousands upon thousands" of dollars on legal and court fees.

After spending about 48 hours in jail, the Duthoys each posted 10 percent of their $10,000 bonds to free themselves.

James Duthoy described himself and his wife, a 42-year-old public schools employee, as law-abiding citizens who had never even had a traffic ticket before their arrest.

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They have a 17-year-old son about to enter college and a 16-year-old daughter on the honor roll. Freddy also is an honor student.

The parents were in disbelief when officers slapped handcuffs on them and led them to jail.

Freddy began staying with relatives after a judge ordered that his parents have no contact with him.

James Duthoy said his wife is still "very emotionally upset by the whole ordeal."

Mary Duthoy is still employed by the Anne Arundel County public schools, said schools attorney Synthia Shilling, adding that her employment is pending the outcome of a separate Department of Social Services investigation.


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