September 28, 2012

Vassalboro man guilty of felony domestic assault in strangling attempt

By Craig Crosby
Staff Writer

A Vassalboro man accused of trying to strangle his girlfriend with a shoelace has been convicted of domestic violence assault.

But a jury in Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington on Thursday also acquitted Ronald C. Willey, 29, of a domestic violence terrorizing charge in connection with allegedly threatening the woman's teenage daughter with a knife.

A third charge against him, domestic violence assault against the daughter, was dismissed when Willey's attorney, William Baghdoyan, argued that the district attorney's office had violated evidence-sharing rules.

Baghdoyan said Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy revoked Willey's $50,000 cash bail following the verdict.

"It had no real effect because he couldn't make the bail that had previously been set," Baghdoyan said.

Baghdoyan said no sentencing date has been set. Willey faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for the class C assault charge.

Acting District Attorney Alan Kelley did not return phone messages Friday seeking comment.

The two-day trial was moved from Augusta to the Farmington court because of the disruption caused by pile-driving behind the Kennebec County Superior Courthouse. The construction is related to the courthouse expansion project.

"We did enjoy the quiet of the courthouse" in Farmington, Baghdoyan said. He said move had no impact on the trial.

A Kennebec County grand jury in December indicted Willey on two counts of domestic violence assault and one count of domestic violence terrorizing after he reportedly tried to strangle his girlfriend, Cher Simon, with a shoelace inside the home the couple shared on Watson Pond Road in Rome. Police said that Willey had also threatened Simon's 13-year-old daughter with a knife.

Baghdoyan said his client was convicted on one count of domestic violence assault, against Simon, but the jury acquitted Willey of the domestic violence terrorizing charge.

Murphy tossed out the third charge, a domestic violence assault against Simon's daughter, after Baghdoyan successfully argued that the district attorney's office had committed discovery violations. One of those violations occurred when the office failed to turn over to the defense recorded phone calls, Baghdoyan said.

During the trial, as he cross-examined a Kennebec County Sheriff's deputy, Baghdoyan also learned the deputy had taken color photos of the victim. The deputy never told the district attorney's office about the photos, Baghdoyan said, who also successfully argued that the photos should have been submitted as case evidence.

Willey cannot be retried on the assault charge. "That count is gone forever," Baghdoyan said.

Craig Crosby -- 621-5642

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