, Salem, MA

November 15, 2007

Lawyers debate severity of charge in charter school case

By Mike Stucka , Staff writer

MARBLEHEAD - The ousted head of the Marblehead charter school sat silently yesterday on a courtroom bench as his lawyer argued he shouldn't have to face felony charges in his alleged shoving of a 14-year-old girl against his office door.

Tom Commeret's lawyer, J.W. "Jay" Carney, said the door couldn't be considered a dangerous weapon unless Commeret pounded the student's head against it.

"Merely having contact with it does not make it a dangerous weapon," Carney said.

Commeret faces charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and threatening to commit a crime in connection with the April 9 after-school incident. Carney was in Lynn District Court yesterday to argue the first charge should become a misdemeanor assault and battery. Assistant District Attorney Kim Faitella attacked the argument, saying a pair of pants hanging from the door prevented bruises but not the threat.

"The defendant grabbed the victim and pushed her against the door," Faitella said. "Just because there was some clothing there doesn't mean it wasn't a dangerous weapon."

To argue whether a door could be considered a dangerous weapon, both sides have cited the same case in which a person's head was bashed against a sidewalk.

Judge Michael Lauranzano said he would issue a ruling soon in the case. None had been filed with the clerk's office by late yesterday afternoon.

In the charter school incident, the girl wrote a statement for police saying she saw Commeret drinking what she thought might be alcohol in his office and she asked what the drink was. According to her statement, "He grabbed my arms and pushed me up against the back of the door. He held me there for a few moments, and said, 'I'll (expletive) find you.' Then he jerked me back and let go."

Commeret had requested a speedy trial so he could return to school quickly. He is on paid administrative leave from his $96,000-a-year job as head of Marblehead Community Charter Public School for the remainder of his two-year contract.

On Dec. 4, the lawyers will debate whether Commeret should get a chance to look at two doctors' records of their talks with the student in May about the April incident.

Carney said, "I believe they contain relevant information regarding the credibility of the complainant."

One of the doctors works with the Massachusetts Department of Social Services.