TAMPA — A felony charge of child abuse was dropped Monday against a father who cheered and coached his teenage son through a videotaped brawl in April.
"Both families agreed that a felony charge was not the remedy," said John Trevena, the father's attorney.
Philip Scott Struthers, 42, earned national notoriety when the video of his son's fight went viral on the Internet. It showed Struthers on the sidelines of the brawl, shouting "punch his eyes out" and "slam his head on the ground" as his 16-year-old son battled another boy.
Afterward, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies charged Struthers with one felony count of child abuse and one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a child.
In court on Monday, charges were reduced to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. As part of a pretrial intervention program, if Struthers completes a parenting class, Trevena said, those charges will be dropped as well.
"Under Florida law, mere words alone are not enough for felony child abuse," he said. "The charge was overkill."
Trevena said Struthers and his son already have been given psychological evaluations and Struthers has completed an anger management class. Struthers didn't testify. He and his wife, Kimberly, declined comment.
In April, the father told the St. Petersburg Times that his son had been verbally bullied for six months before the fight. The boys went to different high schools. Their dispute started over a girl, Struthers said, and led to taunts and threats on Facebook and in text messages.
Eventually, a date for a fight was set. Struthers said his son had "reached a point where he knew it wasn't going away." The boys, each with a set of friends present, met on the street outside a neighbor's home.
"When it happened and it went like it did, it got very emotional for me," the father said. He acknowledged that a "couple things I said I regret."
But he said his son was the victim. "I would do anything in my power to protect my son, my daughter, my wife, my entire family, without a doubt."
The video resulted in Struthers appearing on Good Morning America.
Trevena said the case took months to resolve because of the psychological evaluations and discussions involving the parents on both sides.
John Barry can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3383.