Thomas Derrick Ross, who was arrested Monday on a charge of cruelty to children, was released shortly after 6 p.m. yesterday by a D.C. Superior Court judge who ordered him to stay away from the alleged victim, Ross's 9-year-old son. A hearing on the case has been scheduled for July 30.

Ross, a former street hustler and crew member, was profiled in a Sunday Washington Post story about his efforts to adopt a legitimate lifestyle following a truce that ended the violence between rival street crews in a Southeast Washington neighborhood nicknamed Simple City. Ross, 25, is now a D.C. Housing Authority employee and recently completed a one-year housing training program. He was scheduled to begin work as assistant manager the day of his arrest.

An affidavit supporting the arrest warrant alleges that on Saturday at his home in the 600 block of 46th Place Southeast, Ross physically abused his son by whipping him about the head, face and body with a belt. A witness, not identified in the affidavit, took the boy to Children's Hospital, where he was examined by a doctor.

According to the affidavit, the doctor described the child's injuries as "acute bruising" that included a belt buckle mark on his chest. The doctor estimated that the child had been struck 20 times. The child reportedly told authorities that he did not know why his father had whipped him.

During yesterday's arraignment, Ross was represented by two attorneys from Regan Associates, a firm that provides legal services to housing employees. Based on advice from his attorney, Ross declined to discuss the case.

William Knox, who oversees the Housing Authority's youth apprenticeship programs aimed at transforming troubled youth, spent the day in court waiting for Ross's case to be called. He said the authority will continue to employ Ross.

"It's still not clear what happened," Knox said. "Based on Derrick's employment record and all the efforts and progress he has made during the past two, nearly three, years, we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt."

CAPTION: Thomas Derrick Ross gave up hustling after a 1997 truce between rival District crew factions.