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Former coach avoids prosecution

October 17, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A former head wrestling coach at South Hagerstown High School agreed Thursday in a Washington County Circuit Court hearing to give up coaching for two years to avoid prosecution on a charge that he assaulted a student earlier this year.

Brian Jacob Brake, 38, of 11335 Shimpstown Road in Mercersburg, Pa., was charged March 31 with a single count of second-degree assault in connection with a Feb. 4 incident at the school with a boy who was 15 at the time.

Both the student's father and Brake's attorney believed the resolution was fair, but Brake's attorney said he believed the basis for the charge was weak.

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According to the agreement, which was read in court Thursday, Brake is not allowed to coach in Washington County Public Schools for two years and he cannot interfere in any way with the boy's participation in school sports.

In exchange for the agreement, prosecutors from the Washington County State's Attorney's Office agreed to place his charge on the stet docket. A defendant avoids conviction on the charge if it has been stetted, but it can be reactivated if the defendant violates the conditions in the agreement.

Brake has maintained his job as a math teacher at South High since the incident, schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said Thursday.

According to charging documents, the student on the wrestling team asked to leave wrestling practice on Feb. 4. Brake allegedly told the boy he was acting like a baby, and the boy allegedly showed the teacher his middle finger and made a verbal remark.

Brake allegedly shoved the boy against a wall and held him there, demanding an apology, court papers said.

Both Brake's attorney and the boy's father, reached after the hearing, said the outcome of the case was fair.

"We're pretty satisfied with the way it came out," the boy's father said. "He could have walked" without punishment had it gone to a jury, he said.

Brake declined comment after the hearing. His attorney, Thomas Morrow, said he believed the outcome was best for his client.

"I think it's a fair resolution. Essentially, the state has elected not to go forward" with prosecution, Morrow said.

However, he said, teachers are allowed by law to use a reasonable amount of force to maintain a classroom setting when confronted with a situation like the one Feb. 4.

"For him (Brake) not to have done anything would have been an overt dereliction of duty," Morrow said.

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