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76-year-old man accused of assaulting wife avoids jail time

January 23, 2002

76-year-old man accused of assaulting wife avoids jail time



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

A 76-year-old Keedysville man accused of beating his 48-year-old wife with his hands and a .357-magnum handgun avoided jail Tuesday during an appearance in Washington County Circuit Court.

William Clyde Harding, of Hogmaw Road, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree assault before Circuit Judge Kennedy Boone.

Taking Harding's clean background, age and poor health into consideration, Boone placed him on three years of unsupervised probation. A charge of first-degree assault was dismissed in exchange for his plea.

When called before the judge Tuesday morning, Harding crossed the courtroom, leaning on his cane in his left hand while steadying himself on the court benches with his right hand.

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Reading the court papers in front of him Boone said, "First-degree assault. What did he do, hit her with his cane?"

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Michelle Flores said that on Aug. 8, 2001, Harding and his wife, Patricia Best, got into an argument that turned violent.

During the argument Best said "she wanted to go to CASA (Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused) to get help with her abusive relationship," Flores said.

At that point the 6-foot-tall, 175-pound Harding picked up a handgun lying on a table and hit Best on the side of the head and hand with the weapon, Flores said. He used his hands to beat her and then threw coffee on her, Flores said.

After Flores finished, Harding's attorney, Eric A. Reed Jr., said his client disagreed with one aspect of the chronology.

"He denies he hit her with a gun," Reed said.

Harding and Best, who were married five years ago, are separated and in the process of getting a divorce, he said.

"He said he doesn't want anything more to do with her," Reed said.

Reed told the judge that Harding has no prior convictions, is retired and is a World War II veteran.

"They've had a lot of problems in their marriage," Reed said.

Despite a no-contact order, there has been ongoing contact but no allegations of further abuse, Flores said.

Flores said Harding has driven by Best's home and left flowers, cards and notes on her porch.

"What does that indicate to you? He wants to reconcile," Boone said to Flores.

Harding, who said he is on heart medication, groaned loudly when he attempted to stand, and Boone motioned him to remain seated.

"Do you realize it's over? Do you realize she doesn't want anything to do with you as much as that may hurt?" Boone asked Harding.

Looking sternly at Harding, Boone advised, "Go find another woman."

"No," Harding replied.

Boone warned Harding not to visit or speak to Best during his probation period.

"What if she says something to me?" Harding asked.

The judge agreed Harding could speak to Best during divorce proceedings.

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