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Friday, October 19, 2007

[IN] Officer Wells' wife recants accusations of domestic violence

Officer "not guilty" of battering wife
Muncie Star Press, IN
By RICK YENCER
10/19/ 2007
A Muncie police officer was found not guilty of battery and intimidation Thursday after a year-old domestic dispute with his wife and her boyfriend. Patrolman Robert (Chris) Wells, 33, a K-9 officer and former SWAT team member, never faced any disciplinary action over the incident that resulted in formal charges of intimidation, a class D felony, and two counts of battery, Class B misdemeanors... Judge David Hopper issued a directed verdict, dropping a battery charge involving Donald Mockler, Leigh Wells' boyfriend, and the intimidation charge for lack of evidence. "When you have witnesses recant on the stand, you have a very hard time overcoming that burden," said Janine Hooley, a Madison County deputy prosecutor. Defense attorney Jeff Lockwood said the case should not have been prosecuted. Wells took the stand in his own defense, saying he was not threatening or intimidating during the Oct. 13, 2006 confrontation at the couple's Rangeline Road home. "It was a tremendous waste of resources," said Lockwood...

1 comment:

  1. Officer not guilty of battering wife
    Muncie police patrolman Chris Wells' wife recants accusations of domestic violence.
    The Star press
    By RICK YENCER ryencer@muncie.gannett.com
    10/19/2007

    ANDERSON -- A Muncie police officer was found not guilty of battery and intimidation Thursday after a year-old domestic dispute with his wife and her boyfriend.

    Patrolman Robert (Chris) Wells, 33, a K-9 officer and former SWAT team member, never faced any disciplinary action over the incident that resulted in formal charges of intimidation, a class D felony, and two counts of battery, Class B misdemeanors.

    On Thursday, a Madison County Court 1 jury took only minutes to find Wells not guilty of battering his wife, Leigh. Judge David Hopper issued a directed verdict, dropping a battery charge involving Donald Mockler, Leigh Wells' boyfriend, and the intimidation charge for lack of evidence.

    "When you have witnesses recant on the stand, you have a very hard time overcoming that burden," said Janine Hooley, a Madison County deputy prosecutor.

    Defense attorney Jeff Lockwood said the case should not have been prosecuted. Wells took the stand in his own defense, saying he was not threatening or intimidating during the Oct. 13, 2006 confrontation at the couple's Rangeline Road home.

    "It was a tremendous waste of resources," said Lockwood.

    Wells had stopped at his former residence after one of his daughters told him that her mother was moving a man in their home. Wells had moved out the year before as the couple were getting a divorce.

    In uniform, armed and driving a Muncie police car, Wells opened the door of the house, knocking Mockler into a closet near the entrance, according to a probable cause affidavit. The officer then grabbed his wife by the arm and led her to the bedoorm to talk to her about an agreement not to have overnight friends when the children were present.

    Mockler initially told police in a statement that Wells took an agressive posture with him, telling Mockler, "If you touch me, it will be all over."

    Leigh Wells initially told police, according to the probable cause affadavit, that her husband punched and even knocked her out on other occasions. Madison County police reported as many as four other domestic calls to the residence before the Oct. 13, 2006 incident.

    However, Wells' wife then tried to have the charges dropped last spring, according to testimony, and then proceeded to recant much of her earlier statement on Thursday, saying she was not threatened by her husband.

    Mockler, who now lives with Wells' wife, testified Thursday he felt threatened or intimidated by Wells when he confronted the two.

    During an interview, Hooley said it was not uncommon for domestic violence victims to change their stories.

    Madison County police Capt. John Coogan testified that Wells was not initially arrested because there was no evidence of battery. However, his wife and her boyfriend later made statements accusing Wells of battery and a warrant was issued for Wells' arrest.

    Muncie police Chief Joe Winkle got involved in the case after Wells initially told him of the incident.

    Winkle and police Capt. Mark Vollmar took Wells to the Madison County Jail on Nov. 3, and court records show Winkle posted a cash bond for the officer's release.

    Wells' wife tried to bond her husband out of jail, Winkle said, but could not because she was the victim. So Winkle took the money and got Wells released.

    Winkle said he never took disciplinary action against Wells because it was a battery allegation that his wife recanted.

    "She was mad at him and trying to get him in trouble," said Winkle.

    Wells initially was put on paid administrative leave, and Winkle said he was taken off the street and reassigned to training, assisting with the Armed and Famous officers.

    Winkle acknowledged that Wells had to get a judge to modify a no-contact order with his wife, allowing him to carry firearms because he was a police officer. Hopper granted that motion Nov. 16, 2006.

    Wells later returned to the department's uniform division and has been assigned to a day shift as a K-9 officer.

    As a K-9 officer and former SWAT team member, Wells, a police officer since 1999, had take-home use of a police car which he drove to Anderson while he lived there. After the domestic dispute, Winkle said, Wells' car was parked, and the officer later moved to Muncie.

    Wells is the third Muncie police officer in recent months to face criminal charges.

    A Delaware County grand jury jury cleared police investigator Jeff Leist of a battery charge involving Robert McCallum this week. And former police officer Jason Lyons still faces misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and interference with reporting a crime after he crashed a Muncie police car while on duty Aug. 28 with three Ball State University students in it.

    http://www.thestarpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071019/NEWS01/710190325/1002

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