By Tumaris Hone
A new trial began today with two misdemeanor charges against the defendant, Jennifer Lee Clute. Judge Paul K. Richardson introduced himself to the jury, citing a few important legal terms and informing them of their civic duty to follow the evidence. He notified the court of the oldest principles in the Constitution: innocent till proven guilty and the right to remain silent. He stated the defendant will not testify, and this cannot be held against her. Finally, he named the charges brought forth by the district attorney’s office: two misdemeanors, battery against and and resistance to police officers.
Soon after, Deputy District Attorney David Robbins laid out his opening statement. He briefly described the incident occurring on February 10, 2018, when the defendant’s temper got the better of her and caused her to throw urine-soaked underwear onto Sergeant Kelly McCoy’s face.
Within a lengthy period of time, Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson explained the events leading to the battery. Evidently, Ms. Clute lives with her large family in a three-bedroom home. She has two children, sharing custody of them with “Mr. LH.” Roughly a week before the incident, the defendant and her mother argued, causing Ms. Clute to use profanity. Coming to the defense of his wife, “Mr. S,” her stepfather, asked his stepdaughter to leave the house. Ms. Clute then decided to go grocery shopping, when she received a text from Mr. LH stating he could not hand the kids over to her despite it being her week with them. His reason? The defendant’s stepfather informed him she does not live at the house anymore. Alarmed, Mr. LH texted he will not let his children stay with her. Unaware of the situation, Ms. Clute called the police, fearing her children would be taken from her.
When a male and female officer arrived, the defendant pleaded with her mother to help her. At this time, she realized she had urinated due to pregnancy incontinence. She entered the bathroom, only for the officers to inform her she cannot remain in the house against her stepfather’s consent. Stressed and frustrated, Ms. Clute used profane language to convey her need to use the bathroom. After five minutes, she asked the police if she could quickly grab a set of underwear from one of the rooms, simultaneously reaching for the door. But the police officers denied this request and pulled her hand over her head.
In this moment, Ms. Clute threw down her wet underwear, only for it to land on Sergeant Kelly McCoy’s face. The family members heard a loud, “Oh no you didn’t!” and a couple of “sorrys,” while Ms. Clute was being restrained in cuffs. She was then brought out of the house in tears.
This concluded Attorney Hutchinson’s opening statement, and the first witness was called, Ms. Clute’s stepfather. “Mr. S” has known the defendant since she was five years old. He purchased the house with the defendant’s mother. He explained the discomfort he feels when women “butt heads.” After witnessing his wife and stepdaughter argue, he demanded that Ms. Clute leave.
The prosecution inquired whether Ms. Clute paid any rent, and he explained she paid her mother a little once in a while. In fact, none of the family members were required to pay rent until just a year ago. Throughout his testimony, Mr. S notified the court, they’re family and pay when they can.
Finally, on February 10, Mr. S saw police cars outside his home, with Ms. Clute angrily discussing her rights to custody. Alarmed, Mr. S made it clear he did not want this tension in the house and requested the police notify Clute to leave. By then, Ms. Clute was found in the bathroom. The officers waited to escort her out, and Mr. S realized the door latch Ms. Clute used to enter the home was broken.
When she proceeded to leave, Mr. S claims he heard her request to enter a room for a change of clothes and immediately after heard an “oh no you didn’t!” from the female officer. The defense counsel accordingly began his cross-examination. Mr. S informed the court he did not raise Ms. Clute, and testified to witnessing multiple but brief fights between his wife and stepdaughter. He also admitted notifying Mr. LH that Ms. Clute was not welcome back in the home. However, he is unsure when that happened. Finally, the defense inquired whether, to the best of his knowledge as an experienced contractor, if the defendant even realized she had pulled the latch of the door so hard.
He answers, “No.”
The following witness was Ms. Clute’s mother. “Ms. SS” testified to the stress she was under since she was laid off from work. She often picks up after the kids and pays the bills. She remembers, at the time of the incident, remaining in her room and hearing her daughter ask for help, but she decided it best to stay out of it due to her stress level. She informed the court in tears, “No one wants to see their daughter arrested.”
Finally, the defense asked for the details of the argument prior to the incident. Ms. SS vaguely recalled denying use of her truck to Ms. Clute. Angry at this response, Ms. Clute swore at Ms. SS, and the stepfather considered it best she left.
At the conclusion of Ms.SS’s testimony, Sergeant Kelly McCoy was called to testify. She explained her side of the story in detail. Both she and another officer arrived in front of the home, spotting Ms. Clute displaying an angry temper, cursing and yelling that she has a right to custody.
Sergeant McCoy repetitively asked the defendant if she had a home for her children. Ms. Clute affirmed she did, but was not required to let the officers know where. Doubtful, Sgt. McCoy allowed Mr. LH to leave with his kids. At this time, Ms. Clute’s stepfather was alarmed at his stepdaughter’s temper and asked the police to escort her out of the house. At no point was Sgt. McCoy aware the defendant actually lived there once in a while.
Entering the home, both officers knocked on the bathroom door, asking Ms. Clute to leave the premises. Out of anger, Ms. Clute replied with more cursing. When she came out, the sergeant recalled her being cooperative until she reached for a door, forcing McCoy to immediately restrain her. The officer testified that that was when she had her face smeared with a wet ball of underwear.
It was not until they reached the police department that the sergeant heard the defendant apologize in tears continuously.
Soon after, the defense counsel began his cross-examination. He inquired whether Sergeant McCoy ever thought to consider Ms. Clute needed a change of clothes. McCoy assumed it was a relative’s clothes she asked for, not her own, and denied the request. Mr. Hutchinson also questioned why she did not have a body camera or why the other officer did not put his on. Finally, he asked if Sgt. McCoy even did a background check on Mr. LH to ensure he was a safe custodial parent for the children. The officer did not, but, according to her, he appeared more responsible than Ms. Clute. The defense ended the evening inquiring if at any point the officer asked whether Clute’s belongings were at the house. Apparently, Sergeant McCoy was told that Ms. Clute lived somewhere else and she therefore assumed the defendant’s belongings were not at the house.
At this point, Judge Richardson excused the jury and told them to return tomorrow.