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Appeals court reverses student's convictions

September 19, 2008

The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a teenager's convictions for battery and disorderly conduct stemming from a face-off with an assistant principal and dean of students in the school cafeteria.

In Christopher Bailey v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0801-CR-65, the court unanimously reversed the two misdemeanor convictions resulting from an incident in November 2007 at Perry Meridian High School in Marion County.

An assistant principal confronted Christopher Bailey while he was in a cafeteria line for breakfast and told him to pull up his pants, but the student refused and started to walk toward another line. The assistant principal put out her arm and directed him to the dean's office, but Bailey bumped into her arm as he walked away. The dean of students confronted Bailey, who then threw down his drink and coat, put his face about 9 inches from the dean, balled his fists, and cursed at the school official. Bailey was charged with battery and disorderly conduct, and was convicted at a bench trial before Marion Superior Judge Rebekah Pierson-Treacy.

In reviewing the case, the appellate court determined the state didn't prove that Bailey conducted battery because it didn't show that his conduct of walking into the assistant principal's outstretched arm constituted "knowing" battery, that Bailey knew he was going to bump into her arm.

The court also relied on caselaw to determine that the disorderly conduct shouldn't stand because it can't be defined as "tumultuous conduct" that would result in serious bodily injury or substantial damage to property. The state urged at trial that Bailey should be convicted because the harm was impending and could likely result in actions from the defendant, but the appellate judges rejected that argument.

"Bailey was close to (the dean's) face and yelling obscenities, but one could not reasonably expect (he), as the Dean of Students, would respond to Bailey's tirade with physical aggression," the court wrote. "Because Bailey's behavior was not 'tumultuous,' we reverse his conviction of disorderly conduct."

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