Appeal from Superior Court, Windham Unit, Criminal Division
Michael R. Kainen, J. David Tartter, Deputy State's
Attorney, Montpelier, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Matthew Valerio, Defender General, and Rebecca Turner,
Appellate Defender, Montpelier, for Defendant-Appellant.
PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Skoglund, Robinson, Eaton and Carroll,
1. Defendant appeals his three domestic assault convictions.
He argues that the trial court erred in failing to provide
the jury with a self-defense instruction. He also argues that
that the underlying conduct supports only one criminal
offense, not three. We affirm.
2. Defendant and complainant began a sexual relationship in
2011. Complainant was married and her husband lived overseas.
In 2015, complainant's husband moved to the United States
to live with her and she ended her relationship with
defendant. Soon afterward, complainant visited defendant at
his home, where they had a series of disagreements that led
to the charges against defendant. Their accounts of what
happened that day diverged at trial. We recount
complainant's testimony first and defendant's
3. According to complainant, defendant initially accepted the
end of their relationship but later became very upset.
Complainant went to defendant's house at his request and
they argued. She left but came back when urged by defendant.
They ate dinner and then had sex. But soon defendant began
insulting her and pushed her as she was about to leave.
Complainant pushed him back. The two argued and she left.
4. Complainant returned almost immediately to look for a
missing ring. Defendant closed the door behind her and locked
it. Complainant put down her phone and keys on the kitchen
counter and started searching for the ring. Soon she noticed
that defendant had taken her keys and demanded them back.
Defendant grabbed complainant by the hair and dragged her
around the house while hitting her. She felt her hair
ripping. Defendant grabbed at complainant's earrings and
other jewelry. Complainant bit defendant and tried to fight
him off. He dragged her into the bedroom and choked her. She
stopped fighting. Defendant started punching
complainant's face; she fought him again, broke free, and
ran to the living room. Defendant followed and began hitting
complainant with a sheathed machete, saying he was going to
kill her. Then defendant stopped and returned
complainant's keys. Complainant saw there was a
"black thing on his eyes," but she did not know
what it was. She left and reported the incident to the
5. Defendant disputed most of complainant's testimony.
According to him, after they had dinner and sex, he told
complainant to leave but she became angry and "jumped
over [him] like an animal." Defendant video recorded
part of this encounter, which was played for the jury.
Defendant further testified that when complainant returned to
search for her ring, she began insulting him and making a
mess. Defendant followed complainant into the bedroom and
told her to stop, after which she became upset and hit him.
He pushed her away, told her to stop again, and went into the
bathroom. When he came out, she came out of the bedroom with
his bag of jewelry in hand. Defendant followed complainant to
the kitchen, telling her to give him the bag. She took a
broom from the closet and hit him in the face with it. Then
she dropped the broom and left. Defendant went looking for
towels to dry the blood on his face. Defendant denied
punching the complainant, pulling out her hair, or hitting
her with the machete. He testified as follows:
[Defense attorney]: When [the complainant] was punching you
and kicking you, like you said, what did you do?
[Defendant]: I was just trying to push her back, taking her
away from me.
. . . .
[Defense attorney]: Did you ever on that day . . . punch [the
[Defendant]: No; the only thing that I was trying was to take
her away from me.
[Defense attorney]: Did you ever pull her hair out?
[Defendant]: I never pulled her hair . . . .
. . . .
[Defense attorney]: And at any time during that day, on any
occasion, did you take the machete and hit her with any part
the defense attorney asked: "So just so we're clear,
when [the complainant] said you choked her, strangled her in
the bedroom, in the back bedroom, did you agree with that?