Local man given 18 months in prison for assault, witness tampering

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FARMINGTON – A Jay man was sentenced today to 18 months in prison, after pleading guilty to charges relating to a 2007 domestic disturbance incident in Wilton.

Jonathan Nurse, 34, of Jay, will serve the full 18 months without probation, after pleading guilty to aggravated criminal trespassing and assault, both Class C felonies. These were two of six charges Nurse was facing for his role in a May 2007 incident in which police responded to a 911 call from an apartment. That incident ended with Nurse being tasered after attempting to flee police.

Nurse also pleaded guilty to tampering with a witness, a Class B felony, after he wrote at least one letter to a victim in the May incident. In that letter, Nurse told the victim to “make like David Copperfield and disappear.”

The negotiation for the guilty plea  came in the middle of Nurse’s trial for the first six charges which, in addition to the charge of assault and aggravated criminal trespass, included two charges of obstructing the report of a crime, criminal mischief and another charge of assault. Over lunch break, Assistant District Attorney James Andrews and Nurse’s attorney, George Hess, arranged the plea deal.

In exchange for the guilty pleas to charges on a pair of indictments, Nurse received an assurance that the resulting jail sentence would not exceed two years.

The incident unfolded after Nurse’s domestic partner, a friend and a neighbor had been drinking in the neighbor’s apartment for most of the evening. Nurse, who was living with the woman at the time, demanded that she come back home.

“Mr. Nurse,” Andrews said in his opening statement, “was jealous and wanted her to come back to her apartment, where he was.”

Then, as Andrews put it, “all heck broke loose.”

Nurse assaulted one of the men present and then pinned his partner to the floor, destroying a cellphone that she was trying to use to call 911. Eventually the woman escaped into the bathroom, locking the door, as the two men forced Nurse out of the house with the use of a cane as a weapon. From the bathroom, the woman called 911 again with a different cellphone.

The tape of the call was played in court. In it, the dispatcher alerts police and asks the woman what is happening, to which she replies that “Jon Nurse” is assaulting her friends. Eventually, Nurse came around the side of the house and broke into the bathroom by crashing through a window. Glass struck the woman, causing superficial cuts to her legs, ankles and face.

The woman becomes frantic on the tape and the dispatcher tells her to tell Nurse that the police are arriving now. Then the tape is cut off by the sound of buttons being pressed as the woman and Nurse wrestle for the control of the phone.

Edward Hastings, who at that time was a Farmington police officer, arrived at the scene and found Nurse out front. On being questioned, Nurse eventually sidled toward one side of the apartment and attempted to flee. Hastings then shot Nurse with his Taser weapon, which incapacitates subjects through the use of painful electrical shocks.

Hess successfully argued that statements made during and after the tasering should be suppressed, as his client was not read his Miranda rights at that time. However, Justice Michaela Murphy did allow a statement Nurse made to Hastings prior to his attempted escape to be entered into evidence, in which Nurse tells Hastings that the incident is the result of a “girl issue.”

Much later, as the case was awaiting dispensation in court, the state produced a letter written to the female victim. In it, Nurse asks that she not testify against him.

“The 911 call is a problem,” the letter reads, “but its not going to get in, that makes the case hard to prove. When you get a subpoena make like David Copperfield and disappear.”

On receiving word that there was a plea deal which both parties had accepted, Murphy released the jury and held a sentencing hearing. Hess noted that the mid-trial plea deal was a “compromise situation, to avoid risk on both sides.”

In the sentencing hearing, Nurse’s former counselor and family argued that jail was not a good environment for Nurse, who suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome. They noted that Nurse was beginning to understand the nature of the disorder.

Hess asked the court to consider imposing a 18-month sentence, noting that there was a lack of treatment programs in prison. Upon his release, Hess said Nurse could receive help from a number of agencies.

Andrews argued for the full two year maximum, citing a formidable criminal history that includes assaults, escape attempts, drug charges and a number of lesser crimes. Nurse was out on probation for a 2006 assault when the May 2007 incident occurred. His 20-month prison sentence for that probation violation will ironically be up tomorrow.

“This is a record that richly deserves every day of a two-year sentence,” Andrews said. “Probation resources are wasted on Mr. Nurse.”

Nurse testified in his own defense, saying that he was beginning to fully comprehend his condition and the consequences of his actions.

“Down the road,” he said, “I’ve realized that fighting wasn’t getting me anywhere. I can’t look back and say that everything that’s happened is everyone else’s fault.”

Murphy found that the “extensive criminal history” was somewhat mitigated by Nurse’s condition. She did however, also find that he was a “terrible candidate for probation,” and sentenced him to 18 months in prison for witness tampering. She told him that seeking help upon release, and taking his medication, was his responsibility.

“That’s the only way that you’re going to stop serving this life sentence you’ve been serving six months at a time,” she told him. She also noted that Nurse would effectively spend 36 months in prison for the May 2007 incident, counting the time from his probation violation.

Two, 12-month sentences were also handed down for the assault and aggravated trespassing charges. Those sentences will be served concurrently to the 18-month tampering sentence.

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