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Anderson, Mellen win felony DV trial

Attorneys Neil Anderson and Daniel Mellen were successful this week in getting a client acquitted of felony domestic violence charges in Clark County Superior Court.

Their client was found not guilty on June 14 of second-degree assault, a class B felony, and harassment, a class C felony. If convicted he faced a minimum of one year in prison.

The jury did find him guilty of fourth-degree assault domestic violence, a misdemeanor charge the defense attorneys convinced the judge should be given as an option for jurors to consider. The client will be sentenced next month. With credit for the time he spent in the Clark County Jail after his arrest, it’s unlikely he will receive additional jail time.

The client, 24, was accused of choking his girlfriend and threatening to kill her in 2019, when he was 21. His girlfriend, who was 19 at the time, told Vancouver police officers that she and her boyfriend were arguing and he was trying to provoke her by tapping her on the forehead and calling her names. She said she took a swing at him, and he grabbed her wrist and told her to stop. She said they did stop arguing and she left the room, but when she returned he grabbed her, threw her on the bed, straddled her and put his hands around her neck and started to squeeze. She said while he was squeezing her neck he threatened to kill her. She said two roommates came in and separated the couple.

When the client’s ex-girlfriend testified this week, however, she did not mention the threat, which had been the basis for the felony harassment charge. After she finished testifying Anderson asked the judge, outside the presence of the jury, for a directed verdict on the harassment charge since the state failed to introduce any evidence. The judge granted Anderson’s request.

The alleged victim testified that she was choked but was vague about the details, and said she had been able to breathe and tell our client to stop.

Mellen, while cross-examining one of the police officers, elicited testimony that the alleged victim had no signs of having been choked, except for her saying she was out of breath. She did not say she had any pain or difficulty swallowing, she did not lose control of her bladder or bowels and she did not lose consciousness.

One of the roommates testified that she observed the client restraining the alleged victim, but not choking her. The other roommate appeared confused and kept trying to describe a completely unrelated incident.

In Anderson’s closing argument, he reminded the jury that one of the roommates said the alleged victim appeared to be having a panic attack, and that could have accounted for her shortness of breath.

He also emphasized that the alleged victim waited more than a month before reporting the alleged assault. What happened after the alleged assault, Anderson said, was pretty revealing: His client went for a walk, and when he returned a few hours later they just continued with their evening as if nothing had happened. They watched TV. No one called 911. The alleged victim did not seek medical attention. And neither the alleged victim nor her roommates seemed to consider the client a threat.

Anderson told the jurors that if they do believe his client assaulted the victim, he does not believe the state proved that the physical contact reached the seriousness of assault in the second degree. He encouraged them to consider the charge of fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor.

After a little more than one hour of deliberations, the 12-person jury unanimously agreed to convict only on the lesser charge.


Tags: criminal law, not guilty, domestic violence, Clark County

Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
Vancouver Defenders