Created on Saturday, 24 August 2013 Written by AMANDA LEE MYERS, Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio woman involved in a classroom brawl with a teenage girl accused of bullying her daughter was sentenced to probation Friday after being convicted of assault but acquitted of trespassing at the school.
Jurors reached that unanimous verdict after three days of testimony in the trial of Precious Allen, who had pleaded not guilty in the Feb. 7 fracas also involving her daughter and a 15-year-old girl at Withrow High School in Cincinnati.
Judge Melissa Powers said Allen, 31, could face up to six months in jail if she violates the terms of her probation. Allen could have faced a year of jail time if convicted on both counts.
"I respect the judge and the jurors, and I'm grateful for them listening to my story," Allen told The Associated Press after the verdict was read. "I thought everything was fairly done."
Allen said she'll now focus on work and family, and said her daughter is doing fine in another school. "She's grateful to have her mom home with her — she cried full of joy," Allen said.
Allen's attorney, Eric Deters, said he was pleased with the verdict and that Powers' sentence was "justice and mercy."
"Judge Powers got to hear, during the course of the trial, that she's in a lot of pain emotionally, she lost her job, she was publicly humiliated and she's got five children," he said. "She's probably a classic example of someone that deserves a shot at probation."
Deters said that "the jury was obviously convinced that she shouldn't have been in that room."
"She admits, if she had to do it over again, she wouldn't have gone in the room and gotten herself in a pickle," he said.
In finding Allen guilty of assault, jurors agreed with prosecutors that she knowingly caused or helped cause harm to the 15-year-old. In rejecting the trespassing charge, jurors sided with defense attorneys that Allen likely did not go to the school that day intending to commit an assault.
When she testified earlier Friday, Allen tearfully told jurors that the 15-year-old girl had been bullying her daughter and started the fight by cursing at her, calling her names and shoving her face with an open hand, knocking her down.
"I was shocked when she did it and I fell back," Allen said. Before she knew it, her daughter and the other teen were fighting, she said.
She said she immediately yanked her daughter away and took her into the hallway, after which the other teen "burst through then swinging."
Allen's daughter testified that she didn't want to get in a fight that day but that she hit the 15-year-old girl because the teen had hit her mother first.
The other teen testified Thursday that Allen's daughter is the one who hit her first, and that Allen soon joined the fray.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Eric Cook criticized Allen's statements that she was only at the school to withdraw her daughter from classes and pick up her things.
"This parent acted like a child," Cook said. "Each step she had a chance to act like an adult and step back."
Deters told jurors that it makes no sense that Allen would want to fight the 15-year-old that day, since she was in a hurry to get to work and didn't even know the other teen was in the classroom.
Deters also said it defies logic that Allen would plan to cause a fight at a public school with surveillance cameras and in front of a teacher and students, and where a police officer always is nearby.
"Precious is not some crazy parent," he said.
In three days of testimony, Allen and the six other witnesses offered differing accounts of the fight.
Two teenagers testified for the prosecution on Thursday, painting Allen and her daughter as the instigators. But under cross-examination, Deters pointed out that their own handwritten statements after the brawl said that the 15-year-old hit Allen first.
A police officer testified that now-missing surveillance video of part of the fight showed Allen grabbing the 15-year-old and slamming her to the ground. The teacher who was in the hallway at the time and the two teenage witnesses said they never saw that.
Deters suggested the surveillance video was deleted intentionally because it showed that the alleged victim was the aggressor. Allen has filed a still-pending federal lawsuit against police and the school over the missing video.