Summit County hatchet trial comes to emotional conclusion, 10-year sentence
April 16, 2014
Fifth Judicial District Judge Karen Romeo was not swayed by emotional testimony Monday, March 10 in Summit County District Court when she sentenced Dillon Valley resident Michael Newcomb to 10 years in prison.
Newcomb pleaded guilty in December 2013 to one count of second-degree assault causing injury with a deadly weapon, a Class 4 felony. The charge and subsequent guilty plea stemmed from an incident in which Newcomb struck his wife in the head with a hatchet and fractured her skull during an argument that took place Jan. 31, 2013, at their Dillon Valley home.
Prior to sentencing, Newcomb's wife made an emotional plea to the court to impose the minimum sentence of five years in prison, saying she did not believe her husband intended to hurt her, but was drunk to the point of experiencing a black out and was not aware of what he was doing at the time of the crime. She further cited Newcomb's commitment to sobriety and his philanthropic endeavors in the community since the incident in her plea for a light sentence.
"My husband is a good man," Newcomb's wife said. "There were so many things going on, so many stresses … I don't think my husband was trying to hurt me … he was black-out drunk. I know this for a fact.
“I do know I have to go and it saddens me,” he said. “All I can really do is pray and hope something good comes of this. I’ve never been in trouble like this before and I will never be in trouble like this again. I am terrified of where I am going. I am not like those people in there.”
"It was a huge mistake that happened, it was the scariest night of my life and it has changed us, but there's so much more he can do to help people."
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Newcomb also addressed the court prior to sentencing and, like his wife, he also cited his sobriety since the incident. However, Newcomb also highlighted the financial challenges his wife would endure once he departed to serve his sentence.
"Do I remember that night fully? No, but I'll never forget it," Newcomb told the court. "The longer I go away, the longer she goes without help. We are family and that's the bottom line."
But Newcomb also didn't have any misunderstandings about his impending fate, saying he hopes something good would eventually come out of his situation.
"I do know I have to go and it saddens me," he said. "All I can really do is pray and hope something good comes of this.
"I've never been in trouble like this before and I will never be in trouble like this again. I am terrified of where I am going. I am not like those people in there."
Despite the emotional pleas, Romeo sided with 5th Judicial District deputy district attorney Mark Franklin. Prior to sentencing, Franklin submitted a memorandum to the court outlining the evidence he would have presented had the case gone to trial, including graphic photos of the injuries the victim sustained as a result of the attack.
Franklin admitted the decision was a little unorthodox, but contended the court needed to see the evidence to justify the prosecution's request for a 12-year prison sentence.
"The probation department is recommending a Department of Corrections sentence of 10 years, but we are seeking a 12-year sentence given the extraordinary circumstances of the crime," Franklin said. "We are asking the court to send a message to the community that the district attorney's office and the court take domestic violence seriously."
Romeo said determining a just way to send that message to the community was something she wrestled with over the weekend leading up to Monday's sentencing. The toughest part, she said, was that Newcomb's wife had clearly forgiven him. Although she sympathized with her, Romeo said she also had to come up with a sentence that took the safety of the community into consideration.
"I understand in your heart of hearts you don't want to believe that your husband wanted to hurt you," Romeo said to Newcomb's wife. "Feelings change, but facts do not change.
"This was a brutal attack Mr. Newcomb. I think this was absolutely a brutal attack and I hope you do keep your faith because it is going to be a long road ahead."
Romeo accepted the recommendation of the probation department and sentenced Newcomb to 10 years in prison.
After the hearing, 5th Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown said he was satisfied with the outcome, but urged any members of the public facing similar issues to seek help before it is too late.
"The court balanced the appropriate legal factors and made a very difficult decision," he said. "It's always a terrible tragedy when alcohol, violence and families coalesce.
"We hope people in the community who are struggling with any of those dangerous issues reach out for help before someone ends up behind bars."
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