CARLISLE — A former Central Kentucky principal was found not guilty Friday afternoon of assaulting a 15-year-old boy in February.
A Nicholas County jury of four men and two women returned the verdict, finding Joseph F. Orazen not guilty of fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, after about 20 minutes of deliberations.
Orazen had been accused of slamming Dusty Green to the ground outside Nicholas County High School on Feb. 10. The boy had approached Orazen, asking to go inside the school to get his jacket, and was cursing and yelling at the principal, defense attorneys said.
Orazen was terminated from his position at the school, but his lawyers say they are appealing that decision.
Following the verdict, Orazen said he will probably not return to Nicholas County High School, but he would like to continue his career in education.
Orazen said he was relieved to finally be able to tell his story on the stand and to reporters following the verdict. He said he never considered doing anything other than seeing the case played out in court, even if it meant spending a year in jail, which is the maximum time for a misdemeanor.
"Because I knew where my heart was," he said.
Orazen said he still considers Dusty a victim.
"And I hope that he gets the help that he needs," Orazen said.
Dusty's mother, Michelle Green, left the courtroom quickly after the verdict was announced. She initially told reporters she did not want to comment, but Green then said she was very disappointed and upset at the outcome.
During the trial, defense attorneys said Orazen made physical contact with Dusty, but the principal was not the initial aggressor. In closing arguments, Jason Rapp said Dusty was cursing and out of control. The "f" word was repeatedly yelled throughout the trial as defense attorneys described the language Dusty used when he approached Orazen.
Dusty had become upset that day because his cell phone was confiscated, and he was sent to in-school suspension. The altercation took place after Orazen told Dusty to leave the property after school, but the boy returned to get his jacket.
Orazen said he offered to have someone else get the student's jacket.
"This was a dangerous kid," Rapp said.
Defense attorneys said Orazen placed Dusty on the ground to restrain him and keep him from harming anyone.
But Harrison County Attorney Charles Kuster said Dusty's language did not justify the force Orazen used. In closing arguments, Kuster told the jurors that their decision would set the standard for school administrators in Nicholas County.
"This is your community," Kuster told jurors, reminding them that attorneys would return to Lexington after the trial.
Orazen took the stand Friday, describing Dusty's history at Nicholas County High School and at Lafayette High School in Lexington. Dusty had transferred from Lexington to the school in Carlisle.
Orazen said Dusty once stole another student's bike. He said he skipped school and had several incidents regarding tobacco use. Orazen sent an e-mail message to teachers at Nicholas County, telling them to gently redirect the boy if there were problems. He said Dusty sometimes became "volatile and vulgar."
"When he became angry, he was a tough young man to deal with," Orazen said.