Charges too light for Manatee coach? - WFLA News Channel 8

Charges too light for Manatee coach?

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Rod Frazier.  File photo. Rod Frazier. File photo.

Four Manatee county school administrators are charged with felonies in connection to claims of inappropriate conduct by a former Manatee High School coach.

The State Attorney's office says the four administrators failed to report suspected child abuse, but why are their charges more severe than the misdemeanor charges that Coach Rod Frazier is facing?

Sometimes a charge of battery can seem pretty obvious. News Channel 8 has aired numerous stories of cell phone videos capturing fights.

Legally, however, the charge of battery has many layers.

"Battery is any non consensual touching of another person," says attorney Adam Tebrugge.  "Whether I make physical contact with you by striking you or hitting you. Even if I hug you and you didn't want me to do that, that would be a battery. Or if I spit at you or threw something that hit you, that could be a battery as well." 

Tebrugge said battery itself is a misdemeanor, but depending on intent and the severity of the case, it could bring on a harsher punishment.

"If you commit a battery upon a pregnant person that makes it an aggravated battery," Tebrugge said.  "If you use a weapon like a gun or a knife, that makes it an aggravated battery. If you touch someone in a sexual manner, that could be a lewd and lascivious battery, which is a very serious felony charge."

Former Manatee High parent liaison and assistant football coach Rod Frazier faces seven misdemeanor counts of battery. That was a decision made by the State Attorney's office.

Tebrugge said, "They do the legal research, they interview the witnesses, and they file the charge that they think can be sustained in court."

Four administrators, Bob Gagnon, Greg Faller, Matt Kane, and Debra Horne, each face felonies for failure to report child abuse.

"Florida has always had a very strict mandatory reporting law," Tebrugge said.

Failure to report child abuse is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

"In practical terms, this is a statute that is very difficult to prosecute," said Tebrugge, "and I've never before seen a prosecution on these charges in almost 30 years of practicing." 

The same cannot be said for the charges Frazier faces.

"[Battery is] a serious misdemeanor offense.  It can carry up to a year in the county jail. And it's not unusual for someone to get that sentence if they're convicted of battery," said Tebrugge.

Tebrugge said it's not unusual for someone to be convicted of misdemeanor battery. And that's a year for each count.

An official there said if the girls were under the age of 16, then Frazier would have been slammed with felony charges.

It's also important to note that hypothetically, Tebrugge says Rod Frazier could be acquitted of his charges, and yet the four administrators could still be sentenced.

The two legal issues are not dependent on each other.

"Ultimately, in the legal system most things work out the way that they're supposed to," he said.

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