In opening statements of a domestic violence assault trial that began Tuesday in Juneau Superior Court, prosecutors told the jury the evidence will show that 30-year-old Jesse H. Boone choked his girlfriend “not once, but on two occasions” in December of last year.
The evidence, however, showed something different. The alleged victim, a 37-year-old Juneau woman named Lori Funk, admitted on the witness stand under cross examination that she made up the allegations involving the first incident on Dec. 5, 2012.
Immediately afterward, Funk requested a break from the proceedings, and she went out of the courtroom to the lobby and collapsed on the ground crying. Prosecutors helped her up and escorted her upstairs to the District Attorney’s office on the third floor.
She appeared back on the witness stand about five minutes later, recomposed, and further conceded under questioning from Assistant Public Defender Grace Lee that she put the red marks on her neck herself and then told her mother that Boone tried to strangle her. Her mother had called 911.
Lee did not have a chance to finish her cross-examination due to time restraints, and Funk will retake the stand on Wednesday. Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams will then have a chance for re-direct.
Funk had just completed about 40 minutes on the witness stand describing the Dec. 5 and Dec. 10, 2012, attacks to Williams under direct examination before she changed her story. She said that Boone, her live-in boyfriend of about nine months, had come home on Dec. 5 upset and angry and attacked her by grabbing her throat and squeezing.
“It felt like I was choking,” she said, adding that she was afraid for her life.
She said she managed to get away and ran to her mother’s house, which was about a block and a half away. When the police and medics arrived, she was taken to the hospital and treated by a doctor.
But under cross examination, Lee asked if Funk remembered telling Lee in a phone conversation in May of this year that the incident never happened. Funk denied that, but Lee pressed Funk further and asked if she recalled telling police officers shortly after the incident that Boone never choked her.
“Yeah,” Funk replied.
“OK — ” Lee started.
“So he didn’t, OK?” Funk interjected.
“So he did?” Lee asked, upon hearing her wrong.
“Didn’t,” Funk emphasized.
Lee attempted to clarify and asked Funk what her testimony today was.
“So is this your testimony today that this is all — that the first incident never happened?” Lee asked.
“I went to the ambulance, I went to the hospital, that did happen,” Funk said.
“Ok,” Lee responded, “But did Jesse — so you are saying today that Jesse never choked you?”
“Then how did you get the marks on your neck?” Lee asked.
“You put the marks on your own neck?”
At one point during Funk’s testimony, one of the jurors bent over trying to cover her laughter, presumably from the contradictions.
Boone is charged with second- and third-degree assault for the Dec. 5 incident, and another set of those same charges for the reported incident on Dec. 10. Second-degree assault is a class ‘B’ felony that can carry up to 10 years in jail, and third-degree assault is a class ‘C’ felony that can carry up to five years.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams in her opening statements said that after the Dec. 5 attack, Funk had left their Glacier View trailer, located in the valley on Stephen Richards Memorial Drive, but came home a few days later for necessities. While she was there, Boone returned “angry and drunk” and again attempted to strangle her, Williams said. Funk escaped and ran to a neighbor’s house.
“The evidence will show that on not one but two occasions the defendant strangled his girlfriend to the point where she thought she would die,” Williams said. “Both times he did it until she was forced to run through the streets to save her own life.”
The neighbors — a mother, her son and her son’s girlfriend — all testified Tuesday as to how they heard a frantic knock at the door the night of the Dec. 10, and how they assisted the unknown woman into their home and called 911. Their testimony lent credence to Funk’s side of the story as they described her being terrified, hysterical and half-naked. Prosecutors said Funk’s shirt had been ripped off in a struggle before she fled for safety, and that she had peed her pants running scared through the street.
The neighbors said Funk kept repeating, “He’s trying to kill me.” A man pounded on the door a few minutes later and demanded to be let in, they said. They said he left after being told the cops were coming.
Lee, however, said in her opening statements that the case is a classic ‘he-said, she-said.
“Their stories could not be more opposite,” Lee said, adding, “Jesse Boone never hurt, choked or even threatened Lori Funk.”
The defense attorney posited that Boone wanted to end the romantic relationship and leave Funk, but that Funk couldn’t stand it. Lee said only Boone and Funk know what happened that night, and Funk can’t be believed because her story’s too inconsistent.
“Unfortunately for the state,” Lee added, “her statements make up the bulk of testimony.”
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.