A Frankfort man was sentenced to six years in prison on Monday after Judge Rocky Coss ruled that the verdicts in his jury trial last week — guilty of aggravated burglary and not guilty of felonious assault — were valid.
Joel E. Williams, 51, appeared in Highland County Common Pleas Court on Monday with defense attorney Kathryn Hapner, who argued that her client could not be found guilty of felonious assault, a second-degree felony, without being acquitted of aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony.
Hapner made her argument first after the jury returned its verdict last Monday. Hapner contended that in order to find Williams guilty of aggravated burglary, the jury would have to find that he entered an occupied structure with intent to cause injury with a deadly weapon — and the jury found there was not sufficient evidence to indicate he had a deadly weapon.
Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins argued last week that the jury only had to find that Williams entered the home with intent to cause injury, regardless of whether or not he had a deadly weapon.
Since the matter was disputable, Coss requested the prosecution and defense submit briefs to him further explaining their arguments.
After reviewing the briefs, Coss heard arguments from Hapner and Collins on Monday.
Collins said the Supreme Court “has long held” that in indictments with multiple counts, each count is independent from the others, and if a jury finds a defendant guilty of one but not the other, it has no bearing on the first.
The judge, citing additional case law from his own research, ruled that the jury’s verdict was valid.
As previously reported, the female victim in the case, who lives on Fisherman Wharf Road in Hillsboro, testified that Williams entered her home through a window on the evening of March 27, beat another male in the home with a log chain, and punched her in the face.
Coss said on Monday it was apparent that the jury found there was not enough evidence that Williams used a log chain to beat the male victim, but jurors did find there was enough evidence to indicate he entered the structure, and that the male victim was hurt.
Collins said Williams has a “lengthy history of violence” with a criminal record dating back to 2005, including burglary, assault, drug violations and protection order violations. Collins asked the judge to sentence Williams to “the higher end” of the sentencing guidelines, which state 11 years as the maximum sentence.
Hapner asked the judge to be lenient on Williams, arguing that the male victim did not sustain serious injuries and did not seek medical treatment.
In remarks to the court, Williams said he has two children and two grandchildren, and wants to see them grow up rather than spend years in prison.
Williams said he has “been a good citizen” since the last time he got out of prison a number of years ago, and he intends to help troubled youths make the right choices by bringing them to his parents’ farm and having them work with animals.
Williams added that “there’s things that have been overlooked” in the case.
Coss said taking into account Williams’ lengthy criminal record and “propensity for violence,” a six-year prison sentence was appropriate.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.