COA upholds judgment against ex-husband accused of violating protective order

The Indiana Court of Appeals found Friday that an Allen County man must serve out his prison sentence after he knowingly violated the protective order his ex-wife had taken out against him and that he intentionally locked her out of a house that legally belonged to her.

Kent Blair and his wife, R.B., lived in a home together in Fort Wayne that had been deeded to each of them by Blair’s father. After an incident of domestic violence in July 2014, R.B. sought a protective order and initiated divorce proceedings.

The Allen Superior Court issued an ex part order of protection against Blair in November 2016, when he was barred from harassing, annoying, telephoning, contacting or directly or indirectly communicating with R.B. for the next two years. He was also ordered to stay away from R.B.’s residence, school and job.

When the couple’s divorce was finalized in July 2015, R.B. was awarded the home, which was deeded to R.B. the following September. However, R.B. moved out of the home at some point, claiming she left for “the safety of (her) life,” and left behind some personal property, including furniture, a wine collection and jewelry.  When she routinely returned to the home to check her mail, she noticed that her personal property was missing.

When R.B. tried to return to the home in October 2015, she found that the locks had been changed. Her son, A.B., and Blair were inside and refused to let her in. When she attempted to return a week later, she once again could not enter the home, and found that some of the doors had been padlocked. R.B. called the police, who kicked down the door and arrested Blair after they found him inside.

Blair was convicted of invasion of privacy as a Level 6 felony and one count of criminal trespass as a Class A misdemeanor and sentenced to 1 ½ years on each count, to be served concurrently.

Blair appealed in Kent R. Blair, Sr. v. State of Indiana, 02A05-1604-CR-832, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to establish that he knowingly violated the protective order because he believed he was the home’s owner and had a right to be there at the time of his arrest. He pointed to his own testimony claiming he never received a copy of the divorce papers or the quit-claim deed that deeded the home to his ex-wife.

But in its Friday affirmation of Blair’s convictions and sentence, the Indiana Court of Appeals wrote that Blair had been given notice of the protective order and that his behavior leading up to his arrest could lead a reasonable fact finder to believe that he knowingly violated that order.

Blair also argued that the evidence was insufficient to support his criminal trespassing conviction because he had a good faith claim of right to enter the property because he believed he was the owner.

The Court of Appeals rejected that argument, saying the Allen Superior Court did not believe him when he said he never received the divorce papers.

Finally, the appellate court found that Blair’s sentence was reasonable because the trial court considered his criminal history, which includes convictions for domestic battery and invasion of privacy.

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