Brady Woman to Serve 10 Years Probation For Assaulting a Texas Ranger
BRADY, TX — District Court in Brady began promptly at 9 am on Tuesday, following a day-long jury selection process on Monday. In a continuation of an upsetting trend, about 600 jurors were called, but less than one half showed up
Ex- Lohn School teacher Jennifer Thomas stood accused of assault on a public servant, to wit, Texas Ranger Joel Timms. The incident occurred on December 3, 2015 when Timms went to the Lohn School armed with a search warrant to confiscate a cell phone from Thomas in regards to a case which has since been disposed of.
The case was prosecuted by assistant District Attorney Steve Lupton, while the defense was in the hands of attorney Todd Steele.
Timms took the stand first for the State. In his testimony he stated that he first contacted Steve Coston the school principal to set up a private meeting place so that students would not be a distraction. He was shown a room they could use for the discussion. Coston brought Thomas to the room with her phone and the two were left alone. Timms stated he showed a warrant issued by District Judge Rob Hoffman and asked for the phone. Thomas, Timms testified, refused, insisting she first had to call her mother and her attorney. Concerned with the possibility that the integrity of the phone could be corrupted, Timms insisted that Thomas could use a landline to contact anyone.
In a somewhat garbled recording Timms made of the interview, an argument seemed to take place, and it appeared that a scuffle ensued. Timms testified that he managed to grab the phone out of her hands, and that in a fury, Thomas threw herself down on the floor and began to kick him and punch his legs. One forceful kick he said hit his knee and caused it to buckle and cause him pain.
Thomas’ voice heard on the tape seemed to have said, “You pushed me down.”
To which Timms replies , “I did not, now get up, you are going to jail for assault on a police officer.”
Coston who took the stand next, stated that he had been outside in the hall to keep student activity away from the interview. After the door was opened he escorted Thomas to his office where she was allowed to use the land line. She called her mother who then patched in an attorney in Brownwood.
Timms further testified that his vehicle was not equipped to transport suspects, and he had no handcuffs so he called the sheriff’s office for a deputy to assist
Sheriff’s deputy Georgina Ramsey was next on the stand. She gave a brief background on her qualifications just like the previous witnesses. Her testimony stated that she had arrived at the school to find Thomas still on the phone. She asked that she put the phone down three times, after which she took the phone out Thomas’ hand and hung it up. The suspect then showed scratches and bruises and said she wanted medical attention. As per procedure, an ambulance was requested and dispatched. While awaiting emergency medical services, Ramsey stated they waited in the deputy’s patrol car and that she then accompanied the suspect to the Emergency Room.
After a lunch break, the State rested. The first witness, Deputy Ramsey, was recalled by the defense. She described the visit to the ER, and stated emphatically that no one other than medical personnel entered the room and no one else interacted with the suspect; she also stated that she stayed by Thomas’ side throughout the examination. Ramsey noted that Thomas was transported to the McCulloch County jail and booked for assault on a public servant - a third degree felony.
Next to the stand was Jennifer Thomas the defendant. She walked with a very noticeable limp, which she described in her testimony as part of her injuries received in a four-wheeler accident right before her senior year At Brady High School in 2000. In that accident she described how she was thrown backward with the machine flipping backward and pinning her underneath. She suffered a broken neck and spinal cord damage leaving her paralyzed in all four limbs for months until she regain limited mobility through therapy. Part of the limited mobility was atrophy in her hands and fingers.
Describing her version of what happened on December 03,2015, Thomas gave a different story than the one heard earlier in the court room. She stated that she could get no satisfactory answers from Timms and that he refused to allow her to make a phone call. She testified that Timms grabbed for the phone and in doing so pushed her down. She testified that the phone flew out of her hands and that Timms jumped over her to retrieve it. She kept insisting that she had rights to a phone call and was told she had no rights The recording played earlier was inconclusive in that respect. The case at that point seemed to be taking a he-said-she-said slant since there were no witnesses to what had happened between Timms and Thomas.
In the principal’s office, Thomas recalled, she was allowed to call her mother since she did not have her attorney’s number. Her mother, Nanette, managed to patch two phones so the two could talk. It was this conversation she was having when Deputy Ramsey took the phone from her hand and hung it up.
Attorney Steele asked Thomas to describe what she was wearing the day of the incident, to which Thomas replied that she had been wearing an ankle length tight skirt and some very lightweight shoes. This was corroborated through pictures taken at the ER and entered into evidence .
After Thomas was released from jail, she went home and while taking a shower she told her mother she was feeling pain and discomfort on her head and her right side of her chest and breast. Her mother took pictures, and made a follow-up trip to the hospital where she was re-examined and received a report that seemed to confirm that she had a lump on the back of her head and that her chest area was bruised.
In a display of her weak hand strength, Steele had her attempt to squeeze a tissue holder on the stand, and she could not.
Under cross examination, Steve Lupton asked Thomas some stern questions, and she momentarily broke down and cried. She insisted that her actions on the day in question were brought about because she was scared and did not know what was going on.
Next on the stand was Dr. Richard Morgan the father of the defendant. He appeared as a dual witness, in that as a doctor of medicine he gave some expert testimony, but also served as a character witness.
Dr. Morgan was the last witness of the day.
In summation, Todd Steele presented a strong hard case about the lack of conclusive evidence. He reminded the jury that the defense did not have to prove anything - it was the State who had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. To put a little doubt in the jurors’ minds, he asked them to consider how a lady with limited mobility could kick forcefully enough wearing an ankle length tight skirt and have strength enough in her hands and fingers with atrophy to punch and grab forcefully enough to cause pain. He pointed to the fact that the shoes she was wearing were extra lightweight so that she could move her feet, not steel-toed shoes. He also brought out the fact that what was audible enough on the recording proved she was the one telling the truth since she was unrehearsed and Timms knew he was recording the interview.
Closing out for the State District Attorney Tonya Ahlschwede hammered on the fact that much about the case had to do with failure to accept responsibility. She also told the jury to remember that while on the stand, Thomas had shown her crumpled fingers to display very little mobility-yet while testifying further, she was freely waving her hands back and forth. She touched on the testimony of Dr. Morgan, stating that while it was sound medical knowledge, his testimony was basically that of a dutiful and loving father. In what seemed like a curve, she asked the jury to remind themselves that Ranger Timms after a highly successful career in which he has never been accused of excessive force, will now have to live with the fact that Jennifer Thomas called him a liar.
When the jury adjourned to deliberate, the buzz outside the courtroom was that it might be a long drawn out affair with the element of doubt present, instead the jurors returned a verdict within an hour. That verdict was guilty as charged.
In the penalty phase, the judge and the attorneys went to great length to explain all the possibilities of punishment which ranged from 2-10 years in the state department of corrections and a fine not to exceed $10,000. The defense asked for probation stating that she was not a threat to society, and that while her hopes of going to medical school were dashed because she was convicted, she could still be a useful member of society and a mother to her 12 year-old son.
Ahlschwede was not in favor of probation.
The jury returned with a recommended punishment of 6 years and a $6,000 fine, with the sentence to be probated and the fine suspended. In his ruling the judge set the term of the 6 years to be probated for 10 years and that the fine not be suspended.