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DA seeks dismissal of hockey dad case Clark talks with mother of 10-year-old boy, decides against prosecuting Lockport man

Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark says he will ask a judge to dismiss criminal charges pending against the hockey father who was involved in an April fracas in the Amherst Pepsi Center ice arena.

Clark said he reached that decision Tuesday after talking with the mother of a 10-year-old Grand Island boy who was reportedly grabbed by an adult and dragged off the ice after a confrontation April 13.

"I spoke to [Charlene R. Van Dusen]. She conveyed to me that she would like the charges to be dismissed, and that is definitely what I intend to do," Clark said. "I wanted to do that months ago, but I wanted to speak to the boy's family first."

Clark said his office will ask Amherst Town Justice Mark G. Farrell -- probably Aug. 9 -- to grant an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, or ACD, regarding charges that are pending against Charles M. Schmidl of Lockport.

Until that happens, Schmidl, 38, faces an Aug. 22 trial date on charges of child endangerment and harassment. He denies those allegations.

"I hope the judge will grant the ACD. If he does, if Mr. Schmidl doesn't get into any trouble for 15 days, the charges will be dropped," Clark said.

Contacted by The Buffalo News on Tuesday afternoon, Schmidl said he had no comment.

His attorney, James D. Hartt, said Schmidl has mixed feelings about Clark's plans because -- to some degree -- he would prefer to have all the evidence about the incident play out publicly in a courtroom. If the charges are not dropped, a nonjury trial will be held, with Farrell presiding.

"Part of him wants to be vindicated outright by the judge," Hartt said. "But I have explained to him, an ACD is a vindication. The district attorney brought the charges, and now he's asking to dismiss them.

"This is not a plea deal. There would be no admission of wrongdoing of any kind."

The case involving Schmidl, Schmidl's son and young Michael Van Dusen has been one of the most-talked-about and hotly debated misdemeanor cases in Western New York in the last decade.

Hours of radio talk-show discussions and hundreds of Internet blog entries have focused on Schmidl's conduct, the charges against him and the actions of the Van Dusen boy's mother.

In an interview in April, Schmidl said he took matters into his own hands only after the 10-year-old repeatedly fired hockey pucks at him and near Schmidl's 5-year-old son. Schmidl said he asked the 10-year-old to be careful. He said the boy responded by calling him a vulgar name and asking, "What are you going to do about it?"

Schmidl also complained about an alleged lack of supervision at the hockey arena.

In an interview Monday, Charlene Van Dusen said she believes that both her son and Schmidl acted improperly. She said that she scolded her son and "grounded" him for two weeks after the incident but added that -- as an adult -- Schmidl should have kept a cooler head.

She also denied allegations that she left her son unsupervised at the rink for a long period of time. She said she left the boy for no more than 10 minutes while she went to get her purse from her car and then used the ladies' room.

After analyzing the situation, Clark said he has some sympathy for Schmidl but also feels he erred by putting his hands on another person's child.

"[Schmidl] was put in a lose-lose situation," Clark said. "On one hand, you open yourself to a myriad of problems when you put your hands on someone else's child. On the other hand, he was provoked and was defending his son.

"I think the dismissal of this case would be exactly the right disposition. Quite frankly, I don't think the ends of justice would be served by putting this man through a criminal trial."

Clark said he did not speak with Van Dusen until Tuesday because she had been an "uncooperative witness" and because his office had difficulty contacting her.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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