CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON NOVEMBER 6, 2017
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL CIRCUIT TURNER
COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE CHERYLE W. GERING Judge
J. JACKLEY Attorney General QUINCY R. KJERSTAD Assistant
Attorney General Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff
WILLIAM D. SIMS of Zimmer, Duncan & Cole, LLP Sioux
Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellant.
Travis Phillips was convicted of aggravated assault
(domestic) and simple assault (domestic). He appeals the
circuit court's admission of evidence of alleged
instances of prior domestic abuse. We affirm.
and Procedural History
Travis Phillips and Amanda Johnson were married in 2014.
Their marriage was often contentious. Phillips suspected
Johnson of having affairs, which led to many accusations and
On June 24, 2016, Johnson called Phillips at work to inform
him that a law enforcement officer came to their apartment to
serve legal papers. The paperwork related to stalking charges
filed against Phillips by Tim DeWitt, a man with whom Johnson
had previously had a sexual relationship. Upset, Phillips
left work and went to the apartment.
Johnson testified that upon his arrival, Phillips consumed
alcoholic beverages. At about 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., when Johnson
was making their son's bed, Phillips entered the doorway
to the room and began yelling at her about DeWitt and her
relationship with him. Johnson tried to leave the room, but
Phillips blocked the doorway. He told her to sit on the bed,
and he continued yelling at her for yet another hour,
alleging the stalking charges were her fault because she had
a relationship with DeWitt. Johnson testified that when
Phillips then approached and backed her into a wall, she
kicked him in the groin. Phillips became even angrier and
knocked a box fan off a dresser.
Johnson repeatedly asked Phillips to use the bathroom, and
Phillips eventually relented. Phillips followed Johnson into
the bathroom and continued yelling at her. She alleged that
while in the bathroom, Phillips threatened her, indicating
that he was going to report her for marijuana
and that she would never see her children again.
When Johnson attempted to leave the bathroom, Phillips put
his arm around her waist and threw her back into the
bathroom, causing her arm to hit and bend a doorknob. When
Johnson began screaming for someone to call the police,
Phillips covered her mouth and nose with his hand, making it
difficult for Johnson to breathe. Johnson then started
sobbing uncontrollably, and Phillips sat down on the toilet
seat and told her to be quiet. Johnson testified that
Phillips then put his hands around her neck, preventing her
from breathing: he told her he knew a wrestling move that
would not leave any marks. Phillips released her once he
realized she could not breathe.
Johnson exited the bathroom, and Phillips followed her into
the kitchen. He told her that she had until 11:00 p.m. to
figure out "where [their] relationship was going"
or he was going to leave with their son. At 11:00, Phillips
took their son out of Johnson's arms and left. According
to Johnson, when she tried to follow, Phillips threatened to
kick her back into the house "so hard that [she] would
be sh***ing in a bag for the rest of [her] life."
Johnson then waited and followed from a distance. She noticed
a neighbor was outside and asked if she could use the
neighbor's phone to call the police because Phillips was
kidnapping her son. Phillips, who had taken Johnson's
phone from her earlier that night, then threw her phone into
the neighbor's yard. Johnson retrieved the phone and
called law enforcement.
The police arrived and interviewed both Johnson and Phillips.
Johnson told the officers that Phillips had thrown her into
the bathroom and choked her. The officers noted Johnson had a
bruise on her arm and marks on her chest and neck. When the
officers asked Phillips what happened and what caused the
marks, Phillips claimed that Johnson had an ...