Jefferson County official charged with battery

March 20, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Commissioner R. Gregory Lance was charged Thursday with domestic battery on his 13-year-old son after the boy was allegedly choked at a packed bowling alley on March 9, according to West Virginia State Police.

Lance, who was served with the warrant Thursday morning, was arraigned before a magistrate and was free on $2,500 bond in time to make a 10 a.m. Jefferson County Commissioners meeting.

After the meeting, Lance, 41, of Ranson, W.Va., released a statement in which he blamed the state legal system for making it a crime for a parent to discipline a child.


"I am disappointed and frustrated with the system," Lance said. "I did nothing different than most parents would do under similar circumstances."

Domestic battery is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and a $500 fine.

Lance and his wife, Genie, have been separated for about eight weeks and are going through divorce proceedings, according to Lance and court records.

After the March 9 incident, Lance's wife sought and obtained a family protection order, requiring Lance to stay away from his son, court records said.

On the night of March 9, Lance and his son, Tyler, 13, were at the Shenandoah Lanes at Charles Town, W.Va., bowling with other family members, according to charging documents.

Lance and his son began to argue over the boy's bowling, according to charging documents filed by state police.

Lance told the trooper that the boy began cursing at him, charging documents said.

"The victim and witnesses all stated that the defendant grabbed the victim by the shirt collar and began choking the victim," charging documents said.

The trooper saw several bruises on the boy's neck.

Lance and his son then went out into the parking lot. The boy told the trooper that his father threw him against the side of the building and then knocked the victim down into the gravel parking lot, charging documents said.

The boy then ran into the bowling alley and asked to call for state police, charging documents said.

"I was attempting to correct an angry and out-of-control young adult," Lance said. "My son used vulgar and inappropriate language to me in a public place. The action I took was to attempt to discipline him. I grabbed the collar of his shirt and restrained him from running out of the parking lot of the bowling alley onto Route 340."

Lance and his attorney, Sally Jackson, said that under state law, any touching or grabbing of a child is considered abusive.

"If this is considered abuse, then most parents are at risk of this same fate," Lance said. "The pendulum has swung too far, not to allow parents the right to discipline their children is unacceptable."

Jackson said the boy was upset because he had not been bowling well against his cousin. When Lance had pointed out how the teen could make a spare, the son cursed at his father, Jackson said.

Under the domestic battery law, a parent spanking a child could be charged as a criminal, Jackson said.

"I was raised to honor and respect my parents and others," Lance said. "Currently, there is little discipline and even less respect. If you do not have respect for your parents, how can adolescents be taught to respect their teachers, policemen or anyone in authority. Parents, you are at the mercy of the current legal system in place in our state."

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