Rochester, N.Y. – Owens Shepard got justice in a television courtroom, but has yet to find satisfaction in real life.
The longtime security guard was arrested and fired after being accused of choking a student at Freddie Thomas High School in November 2011. The charges, filed by the student’s parent, were later dropped, but the City School District would not let Shepard return to work.
Shepard said he sued the student and his father in small claims court. That’s where he said producers for “Judge Mathis” asked if they would all appear on the program, taped in Chicago. They were paid an undisclosed sum of money. The show pays the judgments issued by the judge. (Watch YouTube posting of show
Shepard told the judge the incident started when the student, who was skipping class, threatened to spit on him.
“I say to him, ‘If you spit in my face, that’s going to be the last thing you do here today,’” Shepard said. “I don’t have anywhere to go where I can get out of his spit range, so I go forward, I grab the back of his neck, I grab his jaw and his chin.”
Judge Mathis asked the boy’s father, “Was it all right for him to tell him he’s going to spit on him? No. So how you figure he’s in the right then? You sticking up for that?”
“That didn’t give him the right to choke him and grab him by the neck and slam him,” the boy’s father told the judge.
Shepard denied choking the student.
Mathis said the student has disciplinary and credibility problems and ruled in Shepard’s favor. He said he hopes Shepard gets his job back. “It sounds like there’s been an injustice.”
“Now, the world knows I did not do what they said I did,” Shepard said.
The school district would not comment for this story. Shepard’s former union said it did not take up his case because the grievance committee felt the district’s evidence, which included witnesses and video, was strong. 13WHAM News was unable to contact the student’s father.
Shepard thinks the television show restored his reputation.
“The reality is I’m still without a job,” he said. “I’d really like to go back to work.”