After a jury deadlock, a defendant accused of domestic violence opted to take a plea deal with state prosecutors rather than stand trial again on felony assault charges.
Juneau resident Jesse H. Boone, 30, stood trial last week in Juneau Superior Court and was acquitted of felony second- and third-degree assault for allegedly attacking his live-in girlfriend at their Glacier View trailer by choking her with his hands on Dec. 5, 2012. The jury also found him not guilty of the lesser included offense of misdemeanor assault.
The jury deadlocked, however, on whether he assaulted her again five days later on Dec. 10, 2012. He was facing the same felony offenses (second- and third-degree assault) in connection to that incident. After the jury announced Tuesday they could not reach a verdict, prosecutors moved for a mistrial and signaled their intent to try Boone again on those charges.
Rather than stand trial for a second time, though, Boone took a plea deal and pled guilty to misdemeanor
fourth-degree assault during a court hearing Thursday afternoon. The deal reduced one of the felony offenses to the misdemeanor assault charge, dismissed the remaining felony charge and left sentencing up to the court.
Though he pled guilty, Boone’s attorney said Boone maintains his innocence and just took the deal to avoid the “grueling process” of another jury trial.
“He has spent a significant amount of time in jail and he would much rather just accept the conviction and walk away,” Assistant Public Defender Grace Lee said during the hearing, noting Boone has been incarcerated since his Dec. 10 arrest.
Judge Philip Pallenberg, who presided over the weeklong trial that began last Tuesday, disagreed with that characterization and said Boone is probably not as blameless as that. The judge noted the testimony at trial showed that on Dec. 10, the alleged victim ran through the snow to a neighbor’s house half-naked, was seen hysterically crying and was heard saying Boone was trying to kill her. Then, as the neighbors testified, Boone showed up at the neighbor’s house, pounded on the door and demanded to be let in.
“She was terrified, and you were angry as a result of whatever happened in that trailer, and she had marks on her consistent with you choking her,” Pallenberg said. “So I guess I don’t see you as being an innocent person entering a guilty plea in order to avoid further legal troubles.”
Pallenberg agreed with prosecutors that Boone should serve the maximum possible sentence for the class ‘A’ misdemeanor assault — one year in prison. The judge also imposed 150 days of suspended jail time that Boone had hanging over his head in another misdemeanor case from July 2012.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams had argued for the year-long maximum sentence based on what she described as Boone’s “horrible” criminal history and due the seriousness of the offense. She said Boone has 10 prior convictions, three of them felonies out of Texas. Two of the felonies were for theft and the other was for a residential burglary, she said.
Williams noted that Boone was on probation at the time of the current offense for a misdemeanor criminal mischief case filed in July 2012 wherein he threw a rock at the alleged victim’s trailer and broke a window. Williams said the victim in that case was the same woman in the assault case. He was sentenced to 180 days in prison with 150 days suspended, which is 30 days to serve, and he was placed on unsupervised probation for three years.
Protesting the state’s characterization of Boone as a repeat offender of domestic violence, Boone’s attorney insisted that while her client is a self-admitted thief, he is not a violent assaultive person. None of his prior convictions are for assault or for violent crimes against people, Lee stressed.
“That’s not his M.O.,” Lee said. “The assault here is an outlier.”
Before the judge imposed the sentence, he asked whether Boone would like to say anything on his own behalf. Boone responded, “No, I just want this to be over with.”
The alleged victim in the case has a right to be heard at the sentencing hearing, but she did not attend the proceeding. Williams informed the judge that her office tried to contact her about it, but that they could not reach her.
The alleged victim in the case testified on the first of day of trial that she made up the Dec. 5 allegations. Under cross-examination, she admitted on the witness stand that Boone never choked her, that she put red marks on her own neck to feign injury and that she lied to the grand jury that indicted Boone. She maintained that Boone did choke her, however, on Dec. 10.
Prosecutors attempted to explain her recantation to the jury by arguing the woman was either confused by the defense attorney’s questions on cross-examination or that she was scared to confront Boone. The defense argued the woman told the same lie twice and was trying to fleece money out of Boone and his family.
One juror told the Empire in an interview that the jury acquitted Boone because of the woman’s recantation, and that it also caused the jury to deadlock on the Dec. 10 related charges.
“Did she do it to herself like she did on the first time?” the juror said. “Don’t know.”
Pallenberg on Thursday said it is difficult to know what actually happened in the couple’s trailer last December, but that because there was a hung jury, at least some of the jurors believed Boone was guilty of a felony.
“One thing can be said for sure,” Pallenberg said, “some number of jurors believed that you were guilty of at least one of those assaults in the second (or third) degree. So you’re getting a much more favorable result here than what could have happened at trial.”
If Boone had been convicted on second-degree assault, the maximum possible penalty he could have faced is 10 years in prison. Because he has prior felony convictions, he would have been presumptive to serve between six and 10 years.
For third-degree assault, Boone could have been facing a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison, and he would have been presumptive to serve three to five years.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.