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COA upholds 6-year stalking sentence for ex's break-in, threat

May 25, 2018

A Ripley County man who broke into his ex-wife’s home by climbing on the roof and cutting through the drywall with razor blades has lost his appeal of his six-year sentence for convictions of intimidation and invasion of privacy, with the Indiana Court of Appeals rejecting his argument that the sentence is inappropriate.

In James R. Eisert v. State of Indiana, 69A01-1708-CR-1938, James Eisert battered his estranged wife, G.E., and his child, M.E., in December 2015, then threatened to kill them both and his other child, L.E. Eisert was arrested and charged with battery, but was later released on bond, subject to a no-contact order with his family. Eisert was arrested two days later for violating the no-contact order, but was once again released from custody, subject to a no-contact order for G.E. and M.E.

Meanwhile, G.E. began working with a domestic violence shelter to develop a safety plan for her and her children, which included changing and adding locks to her home, installing security cameras and changing their routines to ensure their comings and goings were monitored by others. But in February 2016, Eisert climbed onto G.E.’s roof, broke in through an attic window and cut through drywall using razor blades. Though G.E. called 911, Eisert was able to grab her and told her they needed to “go talk to Jesus,” which she interpreted as a death threat.

Eisert fled when M.E. returned home, but police located him near the woods using heat sensors. He subsequently pleaded guilty to Level 5 felony stalking and Class A misdemeanor invasion of privacy, and the trial court imposed a six-year aggregate sentence, with one year suspended to GPS-monitored probation.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Eisert’s sentence on Friday, with Judge Melissa May rejecting his argument that the lack of physical harm to G.E. minimized his crimes.

“That Eisert’s attempt to take G.E. from the home was foiled by the arrival of other people does not persuade us to ignore that his statement suggests he intended to hurt G.E.,” May wrote. “Nor do we need to overlook the increased terror that would be caused by his method of injury. Nothing about Eisert’s crimes suggests a six-year sentence is inappropriate.”

Further, Eisert’s criminal history shows multiple violations of pretrial release and court orders, while G.E. testified that he had previously battered her and their children before the incident at issue here. Even though he is now attending substance abuse and religious programs while in prison, that participation “does not so rehabilitate his character that we can say a six-year sentence is inappropriate,” May said.

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