Domestic Abuse or Child Custody Battle?

By Lauren Zaren

Woodland – A husband of seven years is charged with violence toward his wife.

Taylor Scott Williams is accused of two domestic violence crimes. He faces one count of willful and unlawful injury inflicted on his wife, with a lesser charge of battery of a spouse. Williams faces a second charge of domestic violence, and assault by force with intent to cause great bodily injury, with a lesser charge of assault. The jury will decide whether to rule Mr. Williams not guilty or charge him with either the greater or lesser crime mentioned in each charge.

On the morning of July 23, 2019, Ms. Williams awoke to the sound of her husband speaking harshly to their four-year-old daughter. When she told him to “be nice,” he allegedly reacted by punching her three times, in the left hip and left arm, which she was using to protect her face. Ms. Williams was flailing her arms and legs around and kicked their daughter.

She left the bedroom and entered the bathroom to collect herself when Mr. Williams allegedly followed her in and choked her, causing her to lose consciousness and fall into the tub. After waking up, Ms. Williams felt disoriented and went back into the bedroom to rest.

At this point, her husband positioned himself on her chest and stomach and covered her face with his hand and a pillow, in an attempt to stop the argumentative words from leaving her mouth. Finally, Mr. Williams allegedly called the police and admitted that he had initiated the physical contact during the altercation. Their daughter did not appear to be injured.

The trial resumed Friday morning with the testimony of Officer Nolan Nagle, who was called by the prosecution. He was the arresting officer and took a statement from Mr. Williams, in which the defendant admitted to choking his wife in the bedroom. He also recalled Mr. Williams’ explanation that he held his wife’s arms down using a blanket or comforter because she was flailing. He said he has had to do this before.

Deputy Public Defender Aram Davtyan pointed out that many of Officer Nagle’s questions during an interview with the defendant gave little room for Williams to tell his side of the story. Mr. Davtyan also claimed that the officer frequently interrupted his client and used biased questions, for example asking, “Did you choke your wife?” rather than allowing Mr. Williams to give context to the situation.

Next, Mr. Williams was recalled to testify. He explained that he had no memory of the conversation he had with Officer Nagle, but it could have happened. He answered that he restrained his wife’s arms because she was hurting herself, hitting her own face and pulling her hair.

He said he did not choke the alleged victim and defined his actions as “smothering” instead. He covered her mouth for a few seconds, “unsuccessfully,” meaning she was still able to scream and cuss at him at the time. He denied ever placing his hand on her throat.

Prosecuting Attorney Daniele Schlehofer gave closing arguments shortly before the lunch recess. She recounted Dr. Greer’s testimony from Thursday where he confirmed that the victim’s testimony was consistent with the feeling of losing consciousness.

She reminded the jury that Mr. Williams had scratches on his forearms, which she presumes his wife caused while struggling to free herself from him. She mentioned that Officer Josh Helton, who testified earlier in the trial, reported that the alleged victim was subjected to three instances of punching, which is consistent with the victim’s testimony.

She listed all of the resulting injuries, including head pain, bruises under the alleged victim’s left arm and near her elbow, scratches, swelling, and tenderness on her back, marks on her neck, and a bruise on her left hip. Ms. Schlehofer then encouraged the jury to use any of these injuries to find Mr. Williams guilty of the first charge, inflicting corporal injury upon his spouse.

Continuing to the second count, Ms. Schlehofer discussed the potential risks of choking and explained that, although the defendant is charged with assault likely to cause great bodily injury, the legal definition of great bodily injury includes both minor and severe injuries in its scope. She repeated the evidence discussed earlier and encouraged the jury to find Mr. Williams guilty on both counts.

Mr. Davtyan began his closing arguments with an explanation of the term “abiding conviction.” He reminded the jury that they must find his client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard than “likely guilty.”

He continued that, as Mr. Williams is presumed innocent until proven guilty, there was no reason for the jury to value the alleged victim’s testimony more than the defendant’s, or to decide her story was “more true.” He claimed that his client was accused because he was the male in the relationship, and that this was unfair.

Mr. Davtyan continued by reminding the court that it was Mr. Williams who called the police, while his wife self-harmed and threatened him. He believes the injuries to her back and elbow resulted not from punches, but from her fall in the tub.

He reminded the court that officers and medical workers found no strangulation marks, only scratches and acne. He agrees that his client is guilty of the lesser charge of battery, as he testified to punching his wife, and may have caused the injuries on the side of her arm and left hip. Besides this crime, he suggested that the alleged victim had a vested interest in gaining custody over their child, and the crimes accused may relate to this desire.

Ms. Schlehofer followed up with the prosecution’s rebuttal, explaining that there is corroborating evidence. She also mentioned how the hip injury occurred before Mr. Williams could have feared for his or his daughter’s safety, so cannot be considered an act of self-defense. She shot down the claim that the alleged victim lied to gain child custody, reminding the court that the wife testified that she wanted the defendant to be a part of her daughter’s life. She believes a verbal argument escalated to excessive use of force.

The jury was sent to deliberate on Friday afternoon and will resume deliberation Monday morning.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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