- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A state trooper will serve six months of probation in a program for first-time offenders following allegations he pepper-sprayed his girlfriend’s 13-year-old son because the boy stayed in bed instead of going to school.

A Fayette County judge accepted Ernest Boatright, 49, of Pittsburgh, into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program on Monday, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (https://bit.ly/1z0kmg7 ) reported. The program does not require defendants to plead guilty and they can petition the court to expunge their record if they complete the probation without incident.

Boatright told investigators he had pepper-sprayed two cats on an enclosed porch. But the boy told investigators that Boatright sprayed the chemical into his room in April 2013, and had sprayed him with the substance before.

“My nose started to run, my eyes started to water, my throat started to hurt,” the boy testified at a preliminary hearing last year. The boy then saw an orange puddle, which investigators say was caused by the pepper spray next to his night stand, he testified.

Defense attorney Matthew Zatko previously argued the charges of endangering the welfare of children and harassment resulted from “bad blood” between the trooper and the boy’s mother, and he said the trooper continues to deny wrongdoing.

“Given the issues that were raised at the preliminary hearing, coupled with my client’s denial throughout of any wrongdoing, the decision was made that the ARD program was a reasonable resolution for all parties involved,” Zatko said Monday.

Boatright had been based at the state police barracks in New Stanton, where troopers patrol much of the western stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Zatko said the 25-year veteran trooper, who has been on unpaid leave since shortly after the charges were filed in November 2013, hopes to return to work soon.

A state police spokeswoman did not immediately comment on Boatright’s employment status.


Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, https://pghtrib.com

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