Jury finds Lawrence teen not guilty of kidnapping, but guilty of 2 lesser offenses in case where he was accused of beating girlfriend
photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World
Story updated at 6:13 p.m. Thursday:
A Douglas County jury on Thursday found a Lawrence teen guilty of assault and interference with law enforcement officers in a case where he was accused of beating his girlfriend and then threatening to kill her with a knife and a stolen gun.
But jurors found him not guilty of the more serious charges of aggravated kidnapping.
During a trial this week, Robert Brothers Jr., 19, had faced four charges: two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated assault and one count of interference with law enforcement, all of which are felonies.
After deliberating most of Thursday, the jury chose to acquit Brothers of the high-level felony charges. They also found him guilty of a lower-level assault charge — a misdemeanor, rather than the felony aggravated assault charge.
With the conviction on the lower-level charges, Brothers could face a sentence of probation rather than several years in prison. If he had been convicted of the aggravated kidnapping charges, he could have faced a minimum of a little more than 12 years in prison for each, according to the state’s sentencing guidelines.
Brothers’ attorney, Shaye Downing, told the Journal-World that she was pleased with the verdict. She said that during the trial, she argued that the charges Brothers faced did not fit the alleged incidents.
“Mr. Brothers did not commit the crime he was charged with. As I clarified in my opening and in my closing arguments to the jury, this case was not about victim blaming nor was it about minimizing domestic violence,” Downing said in an email. “I understand that people have strong emotions tied to allegations of domestic abuse, but he was not charged with battery.”
The charges Brothers faced stemmed from allegations that he beat the woman repeatedly during two separate incidents in February until she was able to seek shelter in a Lawrence bank, where the police were contacted. During one of the incidents, which occurred at Brothers’ home, he allegedly threatened to kill the woman because he believed she had cheated on him and had lied about it.
During closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden said that at one point during those incidents, Brothers pointed a loaded gun in the woman’s face and was aware he could be charged with a crime for what he was doing.
Seiden quoted part of the woman’s testimony about that incident, where she recalled what Brothers reportedly told her: “I don’t care; I’ll take that charge today. I’m going to kill you.”
Meanwhile, Downing argued that the charges her client was facing did not fit what had occurred. While she did not dispute that violent incidents occurred between Brothers and the woman, she said the jury should find him not guilty of the presented charges.
She said that the kidnapping charges weren’t appropriate and questioned whether the woman was ever really restrained. She said that while photos of the woman taken after the incident showed injuries, they did not prove that the woman was unable to leave Brothers’ apartment.
She also said that between the two incidents, which happened about five days apart, the woman returned to Brothers’ apartment and repeatedly called him while standing outside the apartment. She said that suggested that the woman was not trying to get away from Brothers.
After Brothers and the woman went to the bank and the woman sought shelter inside, police apprehended Brothers and found a firearm in his possession. Downing argued that Brothers did not commit aggravated assault with that firearm. She did not directly address the woman’s testimony that Brothers had pointed a gun in her face. But she said the woman had testified that she did not know Brothers had the gun on him when they were driving to the bank.
“She wasn’t even aware he had a gun,” Downing said.
Downing also claimed that some of the woman’s accounts of violent acts committed against her weren’t consistent. She pointed to one incident that the woman testified about in court, in which she was allegedly hit on the head with a bottle of whiskey. Downing said the woman did not originally tell police about this incident and that she didn’t mention that it had happened until she gave her testimony in court.
Brothers has been in Douglas County Jail custody since he was arrested in February on a $250,000 cash or surety bond, the Journal-World has reported. After the jury’s verdict, Downing argued that Brothers’ bond should be reduced because he was convicted of lesser crimes than what he was charged with.
Additionally, she said Brothers is believed to have no prior criminal history, meaning he could be sentenced to probation for the two convictions.
Noting that Brothers was convicted of “much lower charges” than what he was accused of and that he had already spent several months in jail, Judge Amy Hanley set a $1,500 own-recognizance bond.
Brothers is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 29.
photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World