A Baltimore County judge has found the former chief of a county road crew guilty of assault and battery in the mock hanging of a coworker who was suspended from a rope until he lost consciousness.

Prosecutors said Herzog, a 15-year county employe and a crew foreman for nine years, held Harrison Hensley while a second worker placed a noose around Hensley's neck July 8 near White Marsh, Md. The men then lifted Hensley off the ground until he was unconscious.

The workers had described the incident as harmless horseplay. But in issuing his ruling Thursday, Essex, Md., District Judge A. Gordon Boone Jr. termed Herzog's behavior "barbaric" and likened it to a "tar-and-feathering."

County Publics Works Director Gene Neff fired Herzog after the incident came to light. But the County Personnel Board reinstated Herzog to county employment, with the stipulation that he be demoted to a laborer.

No date has been set for his sentencing on the assault conviction.

During the trial, Herzog contended that Hensley had participated in the so-called horseplay "just as much as anyone else." But Hensley testified that he feared for his life during the mock hanging.

The other county road worker charged in the hanging incident, Albert Gohlinghorst, is scheduled for a jury trial next year.