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Man found not guilty of domestic violence in Washtenaw

On December 21, 2017, Ted Trotter was charged with Domestic Violence. Ted made the right decision and hired domestic violence lawyer and criminal defense attorney, Aaron J. Boria to defend him. After months of battling, motions, and court battles the trial was set for May and lasted a full day. Finally, on June 25th we received an order of acquittal, a not guilty verdict that released Ted from his nightmare, he was a free man.

To date, Michigan criminal defense lawyer, Aaron J. Boria has won every domestic violence case he has taken to trial. Boria fights for his clients and gets results other attorneys simply do not. If you have been charged with a crime contact Aaron J. Boria today (734) 453-7806.

Charged with Domestic Violence

Ted Trotter (name changed to protect privacy) had just filed for divorce and he feared the allegations of assaulting his wife would not only end in him going to jail but his soon to be ex-wife getting more than her fair share of alimony, and other marital possessions.

 It all started back in November at the marital home in Chelsea when Ted’s wife went through his phone and discovered that he had been having an affair with a woman from work. His wife, enraged, woke Ted up in a furry. She struck him with a bar glass and threw other objects at him until he left the home. Later his wife would tell the police that when she confronted Ted about the affair he became angry and pushed her around before leaving the house.

The next day she was able to track his phone to a hotel in Romulus where she and their minor daughter stole his truck, drove it back to Chelsea, and carved clever sayings like “WHORE” and “MISTRESS NAME DESTROYED MY FAMILY” into the paint of the vehicle. They also filled the inside of the vehicle with a sticky substance.

Later that day, Ted got a ride to the marital home to get his truck back. When he arrived, he went inside to see his wife standing in the kitchen with a kitchen knife. His wife started screaming. In a frenzy, while screaming about Ted’s affair, she took the knife and plunged it into her thigh.

The kids walked into the house only moments after; the wife quickly concealed her wound. Being a knowledgeable nurse, she went upstairs and did her best to close the wound herself. The wife would later tell the police that Ted hit the knife into her leg, and that story would change again to claim that Ted bumped into her and it may or may not have been an accident. Shortly after this incident Ted filed for divorce.

The last incident occurred just a few days before Christmas. Ted was now living at his cousin’s house in Dearborn. His wife asked if Ted could come to the marital home in Chelsea and fill the water softener, bring dinner for the kids, and talk about their daughter. Ted agreed so long as they would not talk about the affair or getting back together.

Ted arrived and dropped off the food. He went downstairs and filled the water softener. His wife followed him downstairs and cornered Ted in one of the basement rooms. The wife stood in the doorway, outstretching her arms so Ted couldn’t leave, and demanded that Ted talk to her about the divorce.

After telling her to move several times, Ted dove between her hip and the door jam, under her arm, and barley squeezing his way out of the room. Ted ran upstairs and when he got only a few steps up his wife jumped onto his back and wrapped her arms around his neck in a desperate attempt to keep him from leaving. Ted called his daughter who jumped into the fray trying to get her mom off of her dad’s back and to stop her mom from falling down the stairs. At trial, the stair incident was described by all three as a melee. Picture three people with a combined weight of about 500 pounds trying to work their way up a residential staircase tangled up in a knot.

When Ted got up to the main floor he started for the front door where his shoes were. His wife got there first and again blocked the door. Ted was able to grab his shoes and escape out the backdoor.

His wife called the police and when they arrived she told them that while she was standing near the door in the basement room she was never blocking it, even though she admits Ted asked her to move several times. She told three different stories over the course of a few months. One story involved him shoving her and she had to use a table to support her. She told a second story where she was pushed into a shelf and told a third where she was pushed onto some bags and choked.  She denied climbing on him while going up the stairs but agreed there was somehow still a melee.

The police took the report and submitted it to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor who bought the story and agreed that they would charge Ted with the criminal offense of Domestic Violence.

Domestic Violence Penalties

If convicted of the charge of Domestic Violence Ted would have faced up to 93 days in jail, a $500 fine with costs that would likely exceed well over $1000. Ted would have been permanently labeled a violent criminal and lost his ability to carry a concealed weapon.

He could have been placed on probation for up to two years where he could have been ordered to submit to random alcohol and drug tests, community service, work detail, substance abuse classes, anger management, and more.

 Domestic Violence Plea Deal

The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office first refused to offer any deal in this case. The reason the prosecutor gave for no plea reduction was because of the alleged prior bad acts Ted’s wife claimed on the night she found out about the affair and the day she stabbed herself blaming it on Ted.

After pointing out some problems with the prosecutor’s case, including evidence that the wife very well may have been the attacker, the prosecutor’s office agreed to offer a plea under MCL 769.4a.

MCL 769.4a is a diversion program where by a defendant accepts responsibility for domestic violence and is placed on a term of probation. The benefit is that the record is sealed from the public and by statute it is not a conviction. MCL 769.4a allows someone to deny being convicted of domestic violence, allows them to retain gun rights, and on job applications they can legally say that they have never been convicted of a crime. A great result for a guilty person.

Believing he was not guilty, Ted rejected the offer and proceeded to trial.

Domestic Violence Bench Trial

The case proceeded to Trial with Judge Conlin of the 14A-3 District Court in Chelsea, Michigan. Judge Conlin is a fair judge, and probably the best judge in all of Wasthenaw one could trust to give you a fair trial, maybe in all of Michigan.

Ted had an affair, he was unfaithful to the mother of his children and wife of almost 20 years. For that reason, and because this was a he said, she said case, the only witnesses to the case being Ted, his wife, and their minor daughter, we felt that waiving the jury was the best way to go. This meant that Judge, Conlin, the fair judge, would be deciding the case based on the law, rather than a jury that might be inclined to make a decision on emotions.

MRE 404B and Domestic Violence

Prior to trial the prosecutor filed a motion to introduce prior bad acts under Michigan Rule of Evidence 404b. The rules of evidence state that prior bad acts by a person cannot be used to show conformity to their character. Another words, you can’t say because a person did something bad before it is more likely they did something bad now.

The exception is 404b where prosecutors will regularly file a request to introduce prior bad acts to show a person’s bad character in domestic violence cases.  The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office is notorious for filing these notices in order to introduce prior bad acts even when the claimed evidence is weak at best.

We filed a strong response opposing the introduction of the prior bad acts because they could not be trusted and it was just a likely that the wife was the aggressor not, Ted. The prosecutor withdrew her motion and we proceeded to trial only on the issues that occurred on the day Ted went to the house to fill the water softener.

The Trial

It was the morning of May 10th, and we were ready to go to battle. The prosecutor waived her opening statement and we gave a very brief opening stating that the prosecutor would not be able to meet their legal burden to show Ted guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The prosecutor sat at her table with one of the arresting officers and called the wife as her first witness. The wife took the stand and swore to the oath that she would testify to nothing but the truth.

On cross-exam it was my turn to put the wife’s feet to the fire. She pretended to be confused when asked tough questions. I pointed out that the police report was missing important facts an officer would likely write down when he initially took her statement. I asked her why this was the first time she ever claimed new facts about being choked? Why in her three different versions of the story did she fall on different objects? She was cross-examined about her motive to lie, about the divorce, and about how mad she was at Ted. 

Next Ted took the stand and he testified very well. The prosecutor tried to trip him up but his story never changed, he stuck to his guns and appeared to be truthful in every way.

The prosecutor called the minor daughter as their rebuttal witness. I felt this was a classless act, the daughter had been estranged from her dad for months. The daughter helped the wife get the truck and vandalize it. The daughter had been hearing the ranting and raving of her mother who was going through a very difficult divorce. She was clearly bias and could add little to the prosecutor’s case. Putting the daughter on the stand and requiring her to testify against her dad did nothing but drive a steak between any future relationship Ted and his daughter could hope to have with each other.

When both sides rested, Conlin did something I have never done before, he had us write our closing statements rather than argue them. Over the next week the prosecutor submitted her closing and I submitted mine.

On June 25, 2018, we received the order in the mail that Ted was NOT GUILTY.

Michigan Domestic Violence Lawyer

If you have been charged with Domestic Violence, or any other crime in the state of Michigan, call criminal defense lawyer, Aaron J. Boria (734) 453-7806.