Judges cite past domestic violence convictions in affirming sentence

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a man’s 180-day jail sentence for misdemeanor battery against his ex-wife, noting he showed no remorse regarding two previous domestic violence-related convictions.

Ohio resident Gerald Stephenson was staying in the Greenwood, Indiana, apartment of his ex-wife, Jessica Jordan, because he was going to be flying out of the Indianapolis airport for a job interview and she was going to watch his dogs. The two went to a local bar to watch a football game and then came home during halftime. They got into an argument over Jordan’s missing horse-riding spurs, which escalated into him grabbing Jordan and pushing her into a coffee table. A neighbor heard Jordan yelling and called police. When the officer arrived, she heard screaming. When she was allowed inside, she found Jordan crying and having difficulty breathing. She had red marks on her face. Stephenson also had scratches on his face.

He was charged with Class A misdemeanor domestic battery, but found guilty of the lesser-included offense of battery, as a Class B misdemeanor. The judge noted during sentencing how Stephenson had previous domestic violence-related convictions and served little to no jail time for those. The court sentenced him to the maximum 180 days in jail.

Stephenson claimed the state didn’t present enough evidence to support his conviction, that the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him, and that his sentence is inappropriate.

Stephenson claimed Jordan instigated the violence and battered him, but Judge Edward Najam pointed out that Stephenson is asking the appeals court to reweigh the evidence, which it will not do.

“The trial court did not find Stephenson’s version of events credible, and we will not second-guess the court’s credibility assessment,” he wrote.

Stephenson argued the trial court erred by failing to find that mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating ones, but the sentencing statute for Class B misdemeanors does not provide a presumptive or advisory sentence, but a maximum allowable sentence. Therefore, the court wasn’t required to balance those factors before sentencing him.

He also claimed the nature of the offense doesn’t support the enhanced sentence, again claiming Jordan started the violence. Stephenson also pointed to his age and education in support of lessening his sentence. But the judges cited the trial court’s focus on his criminal history, which includes domestic violence related convictions, convictions for which he also denied responsibility and showed no remorse. He also has several OWI convictions and a disorderly conduct conviction, which also reflect poorly on his character.  

The case is Gerald W. Stephenson v. State of Indiana, 41A01-1507-CR-1030.


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