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Commissioner found not guilty on assault charge

January 08, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Washington County Commissioner John C. Munson on Wednesday was found not guilty on a single charge of second-degree assault after testifying in Washington County District Court that he never touched an employee at a cellular phone store in October.

"I never touched her, not once," Munson said during court testimony.

U.S. Cellular employee Trisha Lynette Lynn said in a written statement she filed in District Court on Oct. 27, 2003 - the day of the incident - and in testimony Wednesday that Munson became agitated while trying to make an exchange at the store and then pushed her into a counter, cutting the skin near her left eye.

Both Munson and Lynn refused comment after the hearing.

Frederick County District Judge W. Milnor Roberts, sitting in Washington County, heard testimony from Lynn, Hagerstown City Police Officer Barbara Schroyer, Hagerstown resident Patricia Powell and Munson.

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Munson said Wednesday he threw a phone in frustration inside the store and afterward asked Officer Schroyer to apologize to Lynn "for the whole incident."

He said he went to the store to exchange a charger for his cell phone because it wasn't working properly.

Munson testified that Lynn said a new charger wouldn't work and he would need a new phone. Lynn had said earlier in the trial that she could not exchange the phone without the original packaging.

At that point, Munson said, "Automatically, something hit me, and I just heaved the thing. ... I wasn't mad about it," Munson said.

Lynn testified that once she told Munson she would need the phone's original packaging to exchange the phone, he became irate.

"He picked up the phone, then threw it against the back wall. ... I was in fear of what he would do next," Lynn said.

She said Munson began using profanity, and "I asked him to leave the store."

She said Munson was on his way out the store, but came back to pick up his belongings. While she was bent over, she said, he pushed her from behind.

"My eye began to swell. My eye was basically on fire," Lynn said.

She said Munson left and she locked the door and called police.

Schroyer was the responding officer. In court Wednesday, she said she arrived at about 11:25 a.m. that day, and Lynn told her immediately that Munson pushed her.

But on cross-examination by Munson's attorney, Gregory Bannon, Schroyer said that a few moments later, Lynn said she was not sure if Munson bumped her or if it was accidental.

"She was extremely upset," Schroyer said. "She was confused and she said she didn't know at that time."

Schroyer said she asked for a surveillance tape from Lynn - Lynn earlier denied that Schroyer had asked for the tape - and said she was eventually told by company employees the camera was not working properly, and the tape had not recorded anything.

Powell testified that she was inside the store at about 10:30 a.m. on the day in question and had spoken with a girl named Trisha at the store who had two red marks above her eye. When shown a photograph that Schroyer had taken of Lynn, Powell said it was a photo of the person with whom she had spoken.

Powell said the person with whom she spoke said she had been hanging drywall, and her eye became irritated after a piece struck her eye.

Roberts said his decision would have been easier had surveillance tapes been available "but we don't have that here."

"I'm not convinced that proof has been shown here," Roberts said before finding Munson not guilty.

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