Woodland Hills school board member resigns after conviction

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A Woodland Hills school director found guilty Friday of assaulting his pregnant, estranged wife in 2012 has resigned.

Jeffrey Cobbs, 44, of Braddock offered a verbal resignation late Friday afternoon to board President Mike Belmont.

His resignation will be voted on by the board at its next legislative meeting May 14.

Earlier in the day Friday, Mr. Cobbs was sentenced to serve five years probation and ordered to attend a batterer’s intervention program.

Mr. Cobbs was accused of choking his wife, Sarah, hitting her in the head and forbidding her from leaving her home on Oct. 30, 2012, following an argument over marital fidelity.

He denied the allegations, and his defense attorney Robert Mielnicki argued during a nonjury trial this week before Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani that the couple had an argument and his client smashed a pumpkin in anger that night.

“What she describes is a brutal beating with no bruising,” Mr. Mielnicki said. “That night, she doesn’t call the police. She doesn’t get a [protection from abuse order].

Ms. Cobbs went to the hospital to check on the unborn baby, and a hospital social worker contacted the authorities.

Judge Mariani found Mr. Cobbs guilty of simple assault, terroristic threats — for telling his estranged wife she’d leave home in a “body bag” — and criminal mischief for throwing a brick through the windshield of her car.

The judge said the prosecution failed to show the woman suffered serious injury and found Mr. Cobbs not guilty of aggravated assault.

Hospital reports noted she had no bruising when she arrived.

“The court finds it very hard to believe there would be no marks,” Judge Mariani said.

But, he continued, “I do not believe she made all this up.”

At sentencing, Ms. Cobbs said her husband’s actions have made her more fearful.

“In one night, he changed everything,” she said. “He changed the way I look at the world.”

Although he had not previously assaulted her, Ms. Cobbs testified that her husband had a bad temper, had smashed their kitchen chairs and dented the refrigerator in his outbursts.

Mr. Cobbs was appointed to an open seat on the school board last year.

“This just proves that we need to have a much more stringent screening process when appointing people to the Woodland Hills school board,” board member Tara Reis said.

After Mr. Cobbs’ resignation is accepted, interested applicants will have a 30-day period to apply. Residents of Swissvale, Edgewood, Rankin or Braddock are eligible. The term runs through 2015.

Tina Doose, president of Braddock council, said Mr. Cobbs’ appointment to the board was a “black eye” on the district.

“We, the constituents, didn’t get to elect who we wanted. The board chose who they wanted,” Ms. Doose said. “It just — it does not look good.”

First Published May 2, 2014 4:34 PM

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