Jan. 5—Chelsea Kadish, the chief of staff for Frederick County Executive Jessica Fitzwater, is contesting charges that she abused and assaulted her two stepchildren. Her husband’s ex-wife filed a complaint with the police last summer about an incident involving one of the children.
A Frederick County grand jury indicted Kadish in September on two counts of second-degree child abuse, one count of first-degree assault and three counts of second-degree assault. She is scheduled to stand trial in April.
Second-degree child abuse and first-degree assault are felonies. Second-degree assault is a misdemeanor.
Kadish said in a phone interview with the News-Post that there is a history of conflict between her husband, Ryan Trout, who is a member of Fitzwater’s transition team, and his ex-wife, Alecia Frisby Trout, who called the police in July to accuse Kadish of child abuse.
“I am unfortunately caught in the crossfire,” said Kadish, a Frederick resident.
Trout echoed this in a separate phone interview with the News-Post.
Frisby Trout said in a phone interview that she is trying to do what is best for her children.
In July and August, investigators with the Frederick County Department of Social Services and a Frederick Police Department detective interviewed Kadish, her husband, Frisby Trout and the children, who are 8 and 6 years old.
The interviews covered alleged incidents from April 2020, April 2022 and July 2022, according to charging documents in the case.
The Frederick Police Department charged Kadish in August 2022.
Shortly thereafter, a child custody case between Trout and Frisby Trout was reopened.
Kadish pleaded not guilty. A pretrial hearing is set for March 24, and a trial in the Circuit Court for Frederick County is scheduled for April 24 and 25.
Police responded to Frisby Trout’s house in Frederick in July after she called to accuse Kadish of child abuse, charging documents state.
Frisby Trout said to the responding officer that she called after seeing that one of her children had two scratches on his hip area and a scratch on his arm. She told the officer that, according to the child, Kadish had scratched him.
The child told a Department of Social Services forensic interviewer that Kadish scratched his waist and arm after grabbing him, picking him up and shaking him during a disagreement about the manner in which he was carrying bedding out of his room, charging documents state.
Kadish said in an interview with a police detective and a Department of Social Services investigator that she accidentally scratched the child’s arm when they were removing the bedding.
The child, she said, was dragging the bedding on the floor. Kadish said that when she tried to put the bedding back in the child’s arms, she accidentally scratched him, and apologized for doing so.
Kadish told the investigators that she did not scratch the child’s waist.
Trout told the investigators that the scratches on his child’s waist were from an ill-fitting bathing suit the child wore during a recent beach trip, and he said he saw the scratches during the trip.
The child’s brother said to the Department of Social Services forensic interviewer that, during a separate incident in April 2020, he was trying to hold a bedroom door closed and hit his head on a corner of a wall after Kadish forced the door open, which left him crying.
Kadish told the investigators that she placed her foot between the door and its frame to stop the child from closing and locking it, charging documents state. The child repeatedly slammed the door on her foot, so she pushed the door open, which caused the child to fall backwards and hit his head on the wall.
Frisby Trout later took a picture of the child’s injury and, according to the charging documents, the incident was reported to the Department of Social Services in April 2020.
Neither Frisby Trout nor the Department of Social Services reported the incident to the police.
One of the children also told the forensic interviewer that Kadish choked him.
Kadish told investigators that the only time she held the child’s neck was to administer an at-home COVID test when he kept turning his head away.
During a Department of Social Services investigation in April 2022, both children said that Kadish would grab them by their throats and push them against a wall, according to the charging documents.
Kadish denied these allegations in an interview with a Department of Social Services investigator in April 2022.
Kadish said she would cup the children’s faces around their jawline when talking to them or showing affection. But, she said, she did not grab them.
Neither Frisby Trout nor the Department of Social Services reported this allegation to the police.
Following Frisby Trout’s call to the police in July and after reviewing the case, Frederick County Assistant State’s Attorney Tammy Leache recommended that her office pursue criminal charges against Kadish, the charging documents state.
Kadish began as Fitzwater’s chief of staff on Dec. 5, the day the newly elected county executive was sworn in.
Before working for the county government, Kadish practiced law for five years, most recently as an attorney for Cordell and Cordell, a domestic litigation firm with an office in Frederick. She also worked as a law clerk for two judges in the Circuit Court for Frederick County.
Kadish said she made Fitzwater, D, aware of the charges before the new administration took office.
In an email to the News-Post in December, Fitzwater wrote: “I am aware of Chelsea’s family situation and the court case. I have complete confidence in her abilities as my chief of staff.”
On Dec. 28, the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office recused itself from the case due to Kadish’s position in the county government and petitioned the court to appoint a prosecutor from the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith, R, wrote in an email to the News-Post that prosecuting Kadish would create a “direct and immediate” conflict of interest for his office.
The Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office, he wrote, receives a large portion of its funding from the county government and “works very closely with the county executive and staff regarding issues such as budget and personnel.”
The Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office will no longer be involved in the case, except to provide administrative support, Smith wrote.
The Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office expects to proceed with the charges against Kadish, Anne Arundel County Deputy State’s Attorney Brian Marsh said in a phone interview.
Multiple Frederick County judges have also recused themselves. A judge in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Jill Cummins, is expected to oversee the trial.
After calling the police in July, Frisby Trout petitioned the court for a protective order against Kadish.
A judge issued a temporary protective order, which for several weeks prohibited Kadish from contacting the children. It also awarded custody of the children to Frisby Trout until the completion of a final protective order hearing.
At the final protective order hearing in September, a judge denied Frisby Trout’s petition after determining that the evidence she presented did not meet the “preponderance of evidence” standard — or a more-likely-than-not chance — that Kadish abused the children.
Preponderance of evidence is a lower standard than what the judge will consider in the criminal jury trial, in which guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, Kadish’s attorney, David Harbin, wrote in an email to the News-Post.
In ending the protective order case, Terrence McGann, a retired Circuit Court for Montgomery County judge who ruled in the hearing, said the evidence did not prove mental or physical abuse, assault in any degree, or abuse in any degree, according to a transcript of the hearing.
The Department of Social Services also ruled out abuse as a result of its investigation into the protective order case, according to a transcript of the hearing.
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