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Former Cape Girardeau teacher found not guilty of assaulting student

Sunday, July 1, 2012

(Photo)
Roman Smith
EDITOR'S NOTE: The names of juveniles were withheld to protect their identities.

Several hours of testimony Friday by three students didn't convince a jury that a former Cape Girardeau Central High School science teacher was guilty of choking one of them into unconsciousness during a January incident in a downtown parking lot.

Roman D. Smith, 32, of Sikeston, Mo., was found not guilty on a misdemeanor third-degree assault charge. The Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney's Office charged Smith on Jan. 31. Court documents claimed he wrapped his feet around a 16-year-old male student's waist and applied a choke hold when a "play fight" escalated into something more serious.

Bryan Greaser, Smith's attorney, questioned why the two female students with the male students didn't immediately call for help or immediately contact police following the incident.

"I don't know," answered the 16-year-old female student whose car the three students were in the night of the incident. The students ran into Smith around 9 p.m. Jan. 21 as he was going to a friend's car from Hot Shots Bar & Grill on North Main Street to retrieve his cellphone. "I wish I would have," she said. "I don't know. I was just scared."

Called by prosecutor Julia Koester, the students, including the male student who was allegedly assaulted, testified that they found Smith to be drunk once they called him over to their car and that he soon began using bad language and acting aggressively toward the male student. The students said Smith tried to kick the male student and then jumped on his back, applying a choke hold until the student became unconscious, then turned and ran into another bar.

Smith testified in his own defense and said the encounter with the students was not what he expected when he approached the car. He said he told the students they should not be downtown and then engaged in some friendly conversation, but that once the male student exited the back seat of that car that he felt threatened because the student took a few steps toward him in an aggressive manner and was taller and heavier than he was.

"I did not want to hurt him and I did not want him to get hurt either," Smith said of the chokehold he applied to the student, which he admitted was a part of his training as a Missouri National Guard soldier.

Smith resigned from his job Feb. 9 after being placed on paid administrative leave by the school district. Greaser said at the time that the resignation was in no way an admission of guilt, that Smith regretted the incident and that evidence would prove that his client was "within the bounds of the law" the night of the incident.

The jury deliberated for around an hour and 15 minutes.

"We're thrilled with the verdict," Greaser said following the announcement. "I thought that people who heard all of the events and facts of this case would make the decision that he acted within the bounds of the law. The jury spoke to that. We were confident they would."

After the verdict Smith said he hopes to return to teaching, if possible.

One of the students who witnessed the incident said she wasn't sure how to respect teachers anymore and that she and the other students missed many days of school following the incident because they were being bullied by other students.

Penny Coleman, the mother of the student who claimed to have been assaulted by Smith, did pull her son out of school for several days because of bullying but later allowed him to return, she told the Southeast Missourian earlier this year.

Smith pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge for driving while intoxicated in 2011 and received probation.

Judge Michael Bullerdieck set a hearing for 9 a.m. on July 18 at the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson to review Smith's probation and determine if punishment for violation is warranted since Smith admitted during the process of the trial that he entered the bar and grill. The terms of his probation dictate that he may not enter such an establishment.

eragan@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

North Main Street and Independence Street, Cape Girardeau, MO


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Great news, the system works!

-- Posted by Yankee Station on Fri, Jun 29, 2012, at 6:38 PM

Good job, Bryan for your defense of this teacher. I never thought he was guilty in the first place, and I'm glad a jury was able to conclude the same thing. The tragedy here is that this teacher was immediately released from his position even though he wasn't guilty! We don't have enough male teachers in the school system to begin with, which is beside the point, but couldn't he remain in his job until judged by a jury of his peers? What has this man done for money? If he was wrongly discharged, should he be compensated for lost wages? Who will pay his legal bills for a case that should have never happened? Poor guy!!!

-- Posted by wuzthinking on Fri, Jun 29, 2012, at 11:34 PM

Why this case was ever filed by the prosecutor's office is beyond me. Remember the probation officer that was acquitted? When thugs are the alleged victim, due to their thugish behavior, there is little chance for a conviction. What a waste of taxpayer money.

-- Posted by bbqman on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 7:14 AM

@Melange: So you believe that a teacher should not have the right to defend himself or herself if assaulted by a student? Also, perhaps you should learn the difference between probation and parole before you start making comments about either. You are the only one on this forum that believes that Smith was wrong in his actions---that fact alone should tell you something. Smith is an excellent teacher and he did not hurt the kid even though with his military training, he probably could have. As far as the morality clause in a teacher contracts---they are old and antiquated. In it, offenses are not spelled out which begs the questions "Whose morality are we going to use as a standard?" Would lying be considered an offense that could get a teacher dismissed? Adultery? Not attending a particular church? Holding a second job as a bartender? @Tiwercs You are correct Melange hates teachers and is critical of the education system as a whole.

-- Posted by bluejay_fan_natic20 on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 8:28 AM

I am glad that this teacher had a jury of his peers that were smart and had some sense. It is time for children to start respecting their teachers. Let this be a lesson to all you kids out there. As a student you should never approach a teacher in a way that is threatning because you may end up embarrassed in front of your friends. If I was that teacher and a kid approached me trying to fight me to show off in front of his two female friends I would have done more than Mr. Smith did. Just because you are a teacher does NOT mean you can let some kid beat you down. You have the right to defend yourself no matter what your occupation is. This kid outweighed Mr Smithe by 100 pounds! Also you kids need to start respecting your parents. I have taught my daughter and all her friends that if they ever try to put their hands on me I am going show them what it feels like to get knocked out. I don't care how old that teenager is I have the right to defend myself against anyone I choose. As for the DUI....come on guys I know nurses, Doctors, teachers, police officers who have one too!! Lets not be so judgemental of other people. Mistakes happen and just unfortunately this mans mistake was aired on KFVS12 for his DUI for six months. He was never arrested for choking the student. The mug shot that was aired all over the news was for the DUI. This man deserves an aplology from the school board, the alleged victim....yeah right.. and from KFVS 12. He was made out to be a crminal and his face was plastered all over the the news like he killed someone. Wasn't there a teacher in Sikeston that recently got arrested for inappropriate sexual contact with a student? How about we plaster that teacher's face on the news for six months and follow his trial closely as well. Mr. Smith was charged with a misdemeanor not a felony. He was wrongly accused of choking a student. He was found NOT GUILTY so leave this man alone and let him be at peace with his family.

-- Posted by snookiern on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 12:34 PM

There are no winners in this situation...NONE!

In fact, they are both losers.

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 4:46 PM

@Melange: You keep using the word parole. Parole implies that he has been in prison, which he has not. How do you know he was drinking? It was a Bar & Grill. You have the testimony of a 16 yr old girl with an axe to grind that clearly the jury did not believe. Do you honestly think someone who has been drinking would have the coordination to perform a defensive hold? As far as defending himself, he had every right to do so--minor or not. As far as the DWI, I refuse to judge a man based on one mistake in his past, especially when he has an exemplary military record and is an excellent teacher.

-- Posted by bluejay_fan_natic20 on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 5:28 PM

Great news that he was found not guilty! Perhaps now, Mr. Smith can go on with his life.

-- Posted by arrestthem on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 6:39 PM

@Melange: Why should teachers be held to a higher stander or conduct than the average citizen? As I stated earlier, as far as the morality clause in a teacher contracts---they are old and antiquated. In it, offenses are not spelled out which begs the questions "Whose morality are we going to use as a standard?" Would lying be considered an offense that could get a teacher dismissed? Adultery? Not attending a particular church? Holding a second job as a bartender? What about teachers who have children out of wedlock even though they may have a significant other co habitating with them? What about a gay teacher? Again, whose standard of morality are we going to use here? Teachers are human beings and they make mistakes but they should not be held to a higher standard based on an antiquated morality clause.

-- Posted by bluejay_fan_natic20 on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 7:12 PM

Of course Me'Lange reads the story how she wants. The teacher never said it was play fighting. The 6'2" "student" is the one who said it was play fighting. (that would be the court documents that are reference so that Me'Lange can keep up. I guess the teacher had no expectation to protect himself because he is on probation. His violation of his probation is a different discussion that he will pay for, but the man has a right to protect himself. Plain and simple

MeLange, have you seen this "kid"?? I have and I tell you this that if he threatened me, I would do the same thing. You may want to tell him to stop cause you are an adult and we will see how it works out for you.

Next MeLange will be upset because the Missourian had the nerve to identify the students parent, who is also on felony charges for distributing drugs. Are you going to judge her or discredit her statement??

-- Posted by cartman89 on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 7:42 PM

@Melange I am aware teachers are subject to a morality clause when they sign their contracts. My question to you, which you seem to be dodging, is whose standards of morality should a school district use when judging a teacher's fitness for the classroom?

-- Posted by bluejay_fan_natic20 on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 10:35 PM

the "teacher" claimed he was "play fighting"

Posted by Me'Lange on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 5:54 PM

The ARTICLE stated "...applied a choke hold when a "play fight" escalated

Posted by Me'Lange on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 8:15 PM

lol, once proven wrong, just move the goalposts instead of admitting a mistake.

-- Posted by PatK on Sat, Jun 30, 2012, at 11:35 PM

The teacher did not claim it was a playfight. Those are the words of the media and students. The media played a huge role in displaying one side of the story. I have read all of the statements and dispostions. I agree, lessons were learned, and teachers are held to higher standards, but that doesn't make them immune to making forgivable mistakes. The moving hand writes, and having writ, moves on.

-- Posted by lookoutforbikers on Sun, Jul 1, 2012, at 1:07 AM

If YOU would actualy read the article, it was COURT documents that claimed it was a play fight. Then means SOMEONE said it was a play fight, not the teacher. Before you start insulting others, may be you should be the one that opens up YOUR one side mind and actually know what you are talking about, but really thanks again for proving how one sided you actually can be.

-- Posted by cartman89 on Sun, Jul 1, 2012, at 7:44 AM

So happy to hear that the system finally worked, especially in this case. Students need to stay the heck away from teachers when they are out enjoying their personal lives. Also, bring back school discipline to begin with and we wouldn't have these issues. These are are future members of society... scary isn't it. Undisciplined, spoiled, the world owes me people.... Can't wait!

-- Posted by Hot Dog on Sun, Jul 1, 2012, at 10:33 AM

"This man had an angel on his shoulder. They teen could have died from his poor choice or the jury could have found him guilty which would have tarnished his career further."

No, he had proper training and the law on his side/shoulder.

-- Posted by PatK on Sun, Jul 1, 2012, at 4:23 PM

Me'Lange - you never answered the question on one of your main points.

WHO said it was a "play fight". You specifically said the teacher said that.

All the evidence is the teacher never said that. Well?

-- Posted by Dug on Sun, Jul 1, 2012, at 8:27 PM

I had sex with my teacher in college. No bad feelings here. Her and I laughed about it

-- Posted by Guano on Mon, Jul 2, 2012, at 2:44 AM

"He inappropriately used military training on a minor till he passed out which could have resulted in permanent harm"

Actually, it appears he appropriately used his military training and was well-trained enough to not cause any permanent harm.

"It appears he was in violation of his probation"

Doesn't appear that way to me.

"...a not guilty verdict does not mean he was innocent of wrong doing, it just means they could not convict beyond a reasonable doubt."

Or it could mean the jury thought he was actually innocent of wrong doing. You're using your own assumption of the fact they could not convict because of reasonable doubt. Perhaps they did not convict because they felt he was completely innocent of the charge.

-- Posted by PatK on Mon, Jul 2, 2012, at 2:55 PM

Don't waste your time trying to convince MeLange of anything. She is the type of person that when someone breaks into your home and you kill that person in self defense, then she would be on here defending the "victim" and all his family has to go through.

She sees this "kid" as a victim. Bet her view would be completely different if this 6'2" 280 pound "kid" had done the same thing to her. Would actually be kinda amusing watching her try to tell the kid to stop it or he will be put in timeout. All this has been is a kid who has never been taught differently by his law breaking mother trying to start trouble. And the family seeing ANOTHER pay day by suing the school district.

-- Posted by cartman89 on Tue, Jul 3, 2012, at 7:52 AM

"Name'Less" had my posts removed. LOL. I don't know of anyone else who does this, but she can't handle it when someone calls her on her "opinion". IMHO. She's what schools call a bully.

-- Posted by Username1 on Thu, Jul 5, 2012, at 2:29 PM


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