- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The wife of Sen. Max Baucus yesterday reached a deal with federal prosecutors Wednesday to avoid prosecution on a misdemeanor assault charge.

Wanda Baucus, 56, will enter a first-time-offender program for assaulting a woman at a garden center in April.

“This is not a guilty plea,” her attorney, David Schertler, told reporters outside the courthouse.

Mr. Schertler said once Mrs. Baucus successfully completes the “diversion program,” as it’s called, the charges against her will be dropped.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to enter the program, subjects must not have any prior criminal convictions, excluding traffic offenses. The defendants also must admit to their criminal responsibility, though that is not a guilty plea.

Mrs. Baucus is expected to perform 40 hours of community service for a nonprofit group. The program runs six months and during that time she cannot violate any court orders or be rearrested.

Both the defense and prosecution agreed to Mrs. Baucus entering the program, as did D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman.

Mrs. Baucus made no comment in the courtroom, but told reporters outside she felt “good” about the proceedings. She would not comment further.

“We’re satisfied with the resolution of the case,” said Mr. Schertler.

The senator’s wife was arrested April 21 after a dispute at Johnson’s Nursery in Northwest. A Metropolitan Police Department spokesman said Mrs. Baucus was upset that she wasn’t getting help loading mulch into her car, while another customer was.

Police said witnesses reported seeing Mrs. Baucus putting a bag of mulch behind the other woman’s car, preventing her from leaving. The two exchanged words, and Mrs. Baucus hit her several times.

Calls to Mr. Baucus’ office for comment were not returned. The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota said the senator was there and had undergone a nonsurgical procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. In an earlier statement about his wife, the senator said, “I stand by her 110 percent, and she has my full support.”

Mrs. Baucus’ next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 2.

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