Leaders in Anne Arundel County are calling on Sheriff Ronald Bateman to resign after police released a 911 recording and other documents related to his arrest last week on charges he assaulted his wife.
Bateman said Wednesday he would not resign and that he would seek re-election when his term is up in two years.
During the 911 call released Wednesday, Bateman’s wife tells a dispatcher, “The sheriff is drunk and he just punched me in the eye.”
That contradicts statements made by Bateman and his wife following his arrest.
Bateman said last week that he did not strike his wife. His wife, Elsie, released a statement last week saying that “at no point did Ron punch or hit or kick me.”
Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, state Sen. Ed Reilly and Republican County Chairman Nathan Volke issued a statement calling the documents released Wednesday “troubling and unsettling.”
The three officials, all Republicans like Bateman, said the case “threatens the public trust in the Office of Anne Arundel County Sheriff, and compromises Mr. Bateman’s ability to administer the Sheriff’s Office.”
“We believe it is in the best interests of our citizens that Sheriff Bateman resign his office,” they said.
Bateman was first elected sheriff in 2006. He is now serving his third term.
Reached by telephone Wednesday, he rejected the call to resign.
“Actually, I’m running for re-election in 2018,” he said.
Elsie Bateman’s attorney, Thomas Fleckenstein, declined to comment Wednesday. He said Elsie Bateman would make no further statements and was now handling the matter privately.
It is unclear whether there is a mechanism to remove the sheriff from office, even if he were to be convicted.
Under the Maryland Constitution, an elected official can be removed from office if convicted of a felony, or of a misdemeanor related to his or her official duties. Neither applies to Bateman’s situation.
County police officers were called to Bateman’s home in the Riviera Beach neighborhood of Pasadena on the evening of April 10. When they arrived, police said in a statement of charges, Elsie Bateman told them her husband had assaulted her.
Elsie Bateman told the officers the couple had argued, police said. Ronald Bateman told her to leave the house, police said. She didn’t have any money, she said, and tried to grab his money clip, police said.
She said that angered her husband, according to police. Ronald Bateman pushed her onto a bed, she told officers, “threw her into a wall in the craft room and she hit the back of her head,” and “hit her in the left side of her face and mouth,” police said.
Her son, who police said witnessed part of the incident, told them his mother slapped Ronald Bateman, police said.
Officers observed slight redness along Elsie Bateman’s left cheek near her left eye and a small swollen spot on the left side of her lower lip, police said, and blood vessels in her left eye “appeared to be busted.”
Ronald Bateman had been drinking and acknowledged arguing with his wife, police said. He told police he never struck his wife but held her down on the bed to try to retrieve his money clip.
During the 911 call released Wednesday, the dispatcher asks Elsie Bateman if she wants him to remain on the line until officers arrive or if she feels safe enough to end the call. She tells the dispatcher she will hang up and wait outside her home for officers.
Police also released screen shots of what they said was a text message exchange between Elsie Bateman and county police Detective Tim Utzig, who works with domestic violence victims, the day after the incident.
Utzig seems to be instructing Elsie Bateman how to file a protective order at the Glen Burnie courthouse. The exchange ends when Bateman tells Utzig she does not want to pursue charges.
“He never struck me or hit me and I am truly not sure how I was injured because it all happened so fast,” the last text message reads. She then asks the detective not to contact her further.
Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams has referred the case to outside prosecutor Steve Kroll, executive director of the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association. The investigation is being conducted by Anne Arundel County police — a separate agency from the sheriff’s office.
Bateman took a day of paid leave following his arrest and then placed himself on administrative duty. His second-in-command, Col. Rick Tabor, is overseeing daily operations.
Officers removed guns from the Bateman home. Police say they will be retained until the charge has been resolved.
The Anne Arundel County sheriff’s office is responsible for serving warrants and other court papers, including protective orders for victims of domestic violence, and overseeing courthouse security. Bateman was elected as a Democrat in 2006, 2010 and 2014 before registering with the Republican Party last fall.
Others say the sheriff deserves the benefit of the doubt while the case is investigated and pursued legally.
“Bateman is a good guy,” said County Councilman John Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican.
“Folks need to stay out of his business and refrain from judgment until a court decision is made.”
Fellow Councilman Chris Trumbauer, an Annapolis Democrat, said he was uncomfortable commenting on Bateman’s situation. But if the sheriff is convicted, Trumbauer said, he should step down.