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Man convicted of ax assault sentenced to serve remaining prison time

Superior Court judge issues 18 months after probation violations

Posted: November 6, 2011 - 12:09am

A Juneau man convicted of throwing an ax at his wife in 2008 was sentenced to finish the rest of his prison time after admitting to violating probation earlier in the week.

Judge Louis Menendez imposed a sentence of 18 months on Todd E. Richards, 48, during a disposition hearing in Juneau Superior Court Friday.

Menendez said given the seriousness of the original crime he was convicted of by a jury trial in July of 2009 — third-degree assault, as well as criminal mischief — and given the recent timing of that conviction, he felt the ruling was appropriate.

“The underlying assault was serious,” Menendez said in court, adding that conduct was “unacceptable.”

The assault charges and later conviction stem from an incident on Oct. 12, 2008.

An affidavit of counsel filed by Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp shows the Juneau Police Department received a call from Richards’ wife that evening and she reported to JPD Richards had assaulted her. She told JPD when she attempted to flee the residence, Richards had followed her outside.

“When (she) tried to leave in her car, the defendant (Richards) threw an axe (sic) through the vehicle windshield barely missing (her) head. (She) fled the area to the downtown Tesoro and contacted JPD,” the affidavit read.

JPD later confirmed the windshield was broken and an ax was laying on the front passenger’s seat, according to the affidavit.

Menendez, who analyzed Richards’ court file aloud in court Friday, said the incident occurred after an evening of “heavy drinking” for both parties. Richards apparently became angry when his wife tried to leave, and said to her, “I’ll show you, you effing b---h,” Menendez said, censoring himself by omitting a curse word.

Richards later told police “he had no memory of what had happened,” the judge said.

Menendez said after Richards walked towards his wife with ax in hand, the woman had “floored the accelerator” of the car at Richards and drove towards him, striking him with the vehicle with a “glancing blow.”

Richards was charged with third-degree assault in the third degree, a class ‘C’ felony, which characteristically involves conduct serious enough to deserve felony classification but not serious enough to be classified as ‘A’ or ‘B’ felonies; and fourth-degree criminal mischief, a class ‘A’ misdemeanor, for breaking the vehicle’s windshield.

The trial that ensued was heavily “contested,” Menendez said in his review of the circumstances, as both the wife and Richards have filed domestic violence charges against each other.

“The two of them have this volatile relationship. They were constantly screaming, yelling and fighting with each other,”

Richards’ niece Amanda Rue said by phone Friday. “It wasn’t just him doing the domestic violence, it was the two of them together.”

Electronic court records indicate Richards had issued a domestic violence order against his wife twice in 2005 and once in 2007, while she also had petitioned for a domestic violence protective order against him twice in 2005 and once in 2007. She also filed for divorce in February of 2005, but that case was dismissed. He filed for divorce in 2009, but the case was dropped too. They remain married, but live in separate residences in the Southeast, family members said in interviews Friday.

Empire archives show Richards’ and his wife obtained a marriage license shortly before Jan. 4, 2001.

A jury trial found Richards guilty on both accounts in July of 2009, and he was sentenced in September of 2009 to 24 months with 12 suspended for the assault, and 12 months with six suspended for criminal mischief of damaging property. The time to serve was concurrent, and the time suspended was consecutive.

Richards was released to probation supervision in December of 2010 for a duration of three years, and went missing for about four months this year after he didn’t report to the probation office, according to a petition to revoke probation.

His probation officer Dusty Dumont wrote in the petition Richards had also changed his residence without permission, failed to complete the Juneau Batterer Accountability Program and failed to submit to a urinalysis.

“Given the defendant’s lengthy criminal history, his present offense, and current violations, this officer recommends a warrant ... be issued for his arrest,” Dumont wrote in the petition filed in June of this year.

A bench warrant was issued, and Richards turned himself in to Alaska State Troopers in September.

Richards had admitted to violating probation earlier this week in court, and he also expressed a strong desire to no longer be on federal supervision, Menendez said.

“He wants to get on with his life,” Menendez said. “He has made up in his own mind the life he wants to lead.”

Richard’s attorney Eric Hedland in court said that left the court with a variety of options, including unsupervised probation. But in the end, Menendez sided with the state’s offer for Richards to complete his suspended prison time for a total of 18 months.

“I can’t make special cases for Mr. Richards,” Menendez said Friday, adding, “I don’t believe probation was working for Mr. Richards.”

Menendez said several times during the hearing it was peculiar that Richards’ criminal behavior only began in recent years. Still, he said, Richards has an inability to abide by the law, as demonstrated most recently with the probation violations.

“In some measure, we’re going full circle with Mr. Richards,” Menendez said in court Friday.

Richards’ sister Denise Grimm said by phone Friday that Richards only began drinking four years ago.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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