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HBC president agrees to leave state

August 27, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

Harassment and other charges filed against the president of Hagerstown Business College by a former girlfriend will not be prosecuted, and eventually will be dropped, if he leaves the state of Maryland and complies with other conditions.

The charges against James Ernest Gifford, 41, have been placed on an inactive docket in Washington County District Court.

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Gifford had been facing 18 charges including harassment/course of conduct, harassment/following, and several counts each of second-degree assault, burglary, trespassing, destruction of property and felony theft, according to court records.

The charges were filed by Patricia L. Churchey, his former girlfriend.

According to the agreement filed in the court records, Gifford will leave the state "on or before Oct. 3."

He also must pay $216.33 to Churchey for repair to a door, according to the agreement.

Neither Gifford nor Churchey will engage in or attempt any contact, directly or indirectly, with the other, according to the agreement.

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If the conditions are met, all charges against Gifford will be dismissed in nine months, according to the agreement contained in court records.

Attempts to reach Gifford at Hagerstown Business College on Wednesday were unsuccessful, and he was said to be "off campus."

School spokesman Tom Brooks said Gifford remained the school's president on Wednesday.

Brooks said that Wednesday's court action would be discussed with Gifford in the next few days.

Contacted by telephone Wednesday, Churchey said Gifford's agreement to leave the state "has left me with a feeling of relief ... even though I believe the evidence was sufficient to prosecute, I have decided the agreement was in my best interests."

In the statement of charges filed in late July, Churchey alleged that a pattern of conduct began last fall and intensified in June and early July.

Churchey alleged that Gifford called her repeatedly at Hagerstown Community College, on Robinwood Drive, where she works as director of public information, and at her home in the 12900 block of Cathedral Avenue, according to court records.

Detailing a July 1 incident, Churchey said she was walking from the HCC administration building to another building when she saw Gifford in his car, court records said.

Gifford beeped his horn, got out of his car and started toward her, at which point she returned to the building and hid in a closet, court records said. Gifford walked down the hall, looking in every office, court records said.

HCC security was called but Gifford had returned to his vehicle and driven away, court records said.

Churchey alleged in court documents that there were times when Gifford showed up at the homes of her friends while she was inside and rang the doorbell repeatedly.

On other occasions, Churchey said he called her home repeatedly, leaving songs on her voice mail, court records said.

The allegations also included thefts of jewelry and assault against Churchey and a member of her family, court records said.

Hagerstown Business College offers two-year associate degrees in business administration, computerized accounting and legal and medical studies at its Crestwood Drive campus.

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