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Client acquitted of assault after inconsistent testimony from alleged victims

Attorney Neil Anderson won an acquittal Aug. 4 in Clark County District Court for a client charged with one count of fourth-degree assault domestic violence and one count of fourth-degree assault. The client allegedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend and one of her friends, but at trial the women gave different accounts of what supposedly happened on February 6.

A conviction would have carried a maximum sentence of a year in jail.

The night of the incident, the client had gone to his ex-girlfriend's residence to visit his infant daughter. He agreed to stay with his daughter so his ex-girlfriend and her friend could go out for cigarettes. The cigarette run turned into a drinking session, and they were both drunk when they returned hours later. The ex-girlfriend called 911 to say she'd been assaulted. She told a police officer that she and her ex-boyfriend had got into an argument because she was looking through his phone and found flirty text messages he'd exchanged with another ex-girlfriend. She claimed that her ex had grabbed her by the face, tackled her and the wind was knocked out of her when she hit the ground. Her friend claimed that she had been dragged down the hallway and bitten by the defendant.

Anderson's client left the residence that evening before police arrived, but turned himself in upon learning there was a warrant for his arrest. Unlike the two women, Anderson's client did have visible injuries, which he photographed.

At trial, only one police officer showed up to testify. The other two officers who'd responded to the call weren't available but an assistant Vancouver city attorney decided to go ahead with trial. More damaging to the prosecution's case, however, were the inconsistencies between the testimony of the ex-girlfriend and her friend. Among the inconsistencies heard by the jury: the ex-girlfriend said her friend left the room to go into the bathroom and vomit, which the friend denied; the ex-girlfriend said her ex-boyfriend threw her backward onto the ground, while her friend said she was thrown forward; the friend said she had a mark where she'd been bit and that her boyfriend had photographed the injury, but her boyfriend said he never saw a bite mark and certainly never photographed it.

Additionally, neither the ex-girlfriend nor her friend could explain pictures Anderson presented to the jury, which depicted his client with scratches and a swollen, split lip.

Anderson's client testified that he accidentally bumped into his ex-girlfriend and was attacked by her friend, which caused the scratches and the injury to his mouth. 

The assistant city attorney asked the police officer whether the defendant had mentioned any injuries when he called the officer after learning from his ex-girlfriend the officer wanted to speak to him. The officer said no. Under cross-examination, Anderson asked the officer if his client did tell him that he'd accidentally bumped into his ex-girlfriend and was attacked by her friend. The officer said yes. The assistant city attorney objected, arguing that was self-serving hearsay, but Anderson successfully countered that since the prosecutor had "opened the door" to what his client told police, he should be allowed to give jurors a complete picture.

The jury deliberated 30 minutes before returning the "not guilty" verdicts.

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

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