Farmington man sentenced for domestic assault case

first_imgFARMINGTON – A local man received a two-year sentence on a felony domestic violence assault charge Wednesday, after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court vacated a previous judgement against him and ordered a new trial.Wesley Villacci, 23 of Farmington, pleaded no contest to one count of domestic assault, elevated to a Class C felony due to prior convictions, as part of an arranged plea in Franklin County Superior Court. He received a two-year sentence, with all but 30 days suspended, followed by two years of probation.According to evidence that Assistant District Attorney James Andrews said would have been presented had the case gone to trial, on Oct. 1, 2016 Villacci had threatened, hit, and smashed his then-girlfriend’s head into a dashboard of a vehicle they were both in; she eventually pulled on the steering wheel to force the vehicle off the road. They then walked back home, at which point Villacci continued to hit and attempted to strangle the woman. Police became aware of the incident while investigating a separate issue.The case was previously heard by a trial jury in September 2017. That jury found Villacci guilty of felony domestic violence assault, while acquitting him on the more serious charge of aggravated assault. The court also found Villacci guilty of violating the conditions of his release by committing new criminal conduct. Villacci was eventually sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison with all but three years suspended, followed by four years of of probation.However, Villacci appealed the verdict on the basis that the court did not properly instruct the jury as to the state’s obligations to disprove his defenses, which included self-defense, defense of premises, defense of property and consent. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court agreed, concluding that the court’s instructions had two “structural flaws” that amounted to an error by the court. The jury was informed that if the state proved the elements of the aggravated assault charge beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury should find the defendant guilty.“This suggested to the jury that it could bypass consideration of the self-defense justification and find the defendant guilty based only on the State’s proof of the elements of aggravated assault,” the Supreme Court decision said. While the court late instructed the jury that the state was in fact required to disprove self-defense, the conflict between the two instructions “resulted at least in an ambiguity [that] left the jury without clear guidance about whether self-defense was relevant to the charge of aggravated assault.”The second flaw was that the court failed to inform the jury that if the state could not disprove self-defense, the jury was required to acquit Villacci. Instead, the Supreme Court decision reads, the jury was “left to guess” whether a self-defense finding could result in an acquittal or some other result.Wednesday, Justice Robert Mullen said that he was aware the case had a “complicated procedural history.” He said that the District Attorney’s Office had indicated that the victim had a difficult time testifying in the first trial and could be considered a “reluctant witness” for a second.Andrews said that his office had not received a response from the victim regarding Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.The conditions of the two years of probation include no use or possession of drugs, no use of alcohol, no possession of firearms and no contact with the victim.last_img read more

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