By Taite Trautwein
“Mr. Prowell, you didn’t get the message,” were the words out of the mouth of Judge Paul K. Richardson during Friday morning’s sentencing hearing. Defendant Benjamin Prowell was sentenced to 60 days in jail after he had previously been found guilty of annoying/harassing communication. Prowell had also been accused of stalking, but a jury of his peers found him not guilty of that charge.
During the hearing, Judge Richardson was made aware of a social media post made by Prowell following the verdict, depicting a picture of the character Hannibal Lecter with a caption that states he hopes the victim in the case “chokes on her pound of flesh” following his not guilty verdict. The post was brought to the judge’s attention in a statement from the victim, who was present in the courtroom to hear Prowell’s sentence.
In her statement, the victim detailed her disappointment with the jury’s verdict, stating Prowell’s behavior toward her filled her with anxiety and caused panic attacks. Through tears, she spoke of the effect his alleged actions had on her family, informing the court she no longer allowed her children to sleep with the windows open or go on playdates at a local park. She also stressed that she felt her privacy had been stolen from her, stating that she feels “scared almost every day.”
Following this, Deputy Public Defender Peter Borruso, who defended Prowell throughout the trial, was given time to give his arguments on the sentencing. Borruso took issue with the victim’s statement questioning the logic of the jury, saying the decision of the twelve members needs to be respected.
In his statement, the deputy public defender argued for one year probation for his client, due to the charge being a misdemeanor. He also said there was no credible evidence of the victim and the accused
being involved in a relationship, meaning it would be inaccurate to describe Prowell’s crime as domestic abuse, which would come with an increased sentence.
Borruso stressed that his client was found guilty of harassing, not stalking, and that the stalking charge should not be considered during the hearing. Borruso also made a push for informal probation.
Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays argued against Borruso’s statements by asserting there was clear evidence that the victim and Prowell had been involved in a dating relationship. She also stressed that abuse can be classified as both physical or verbal, claiming this case would fall under the latter.
Hays did agree that the burden of proof had not been met to justify a stalking charge, but still pointed out that the harassing conduct of Prowell had spanned months, despite repeated intervention by law enforcement.
Hays pushed for four years of probation, paired with a 60-day jail sentence, stating the repeated actions of Prowell, particularly the post made after the trial, show that he had no reflection on how he had affected the victim. Hays also pushed for a protective order preventing Prowell from contacting the victim.
When it came time for Judge Richardson to say his piece, he made his displeasure with Prowell known right off the bat, calling Prowell’s post-trial actions “clearly inappropriate” and claiming they were proof of his antagonistic views toward the victim. He stated that the post gave him “insight into what was going on here, outside what we heard in trial.”
He went on to address Prowell, saying, “You have got to let it go. Apparently, you haven’t.”
Richardson granted Hays’ wish of a 60-day jail sentence and was prepared to tack on a four-year term of formal probation as well, until Borruso provided evidence of three years being the maximum sentence for this crime.
Additionally, Prowell was ordered to abstain from alcohol and will be required to submit to testing to ensure he does so. Prowell will also be required to take part in a 52-week anger management program.
A no contact order was also placed on Prowell, forbidding him from seeking communication with or going near the victim for ten years. He must also complete eight hours of community service.
Finally, Prowell was ordered to have no participation on social media sites for the duration of his probation and was ordered to turn over all his passwords to probation.
Prowell will receive credit for 12 days’ time served and was ordered to surrender on January 18, 2018.