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State v. Phillips

Supreme Court of South Dakota

January 3, 2018

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
TRAVIS ROBERT PHILLIPS, Defendant and Appellant.

          CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON NOVEMBER 6, 2017

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FIRST JUDICIAL CIRCUIT TURNER COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE CHERYLE W. GERING Judge

          MARTY J. JACKLEY Attorney General QUINCY R. KJERSTAD Assistant Attorney General Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

          WILLIAM D. SIMS of Zimmer, Duncan & Cole, LLP Sioux Falls, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

          ZINTER, JUSTICE

         [¶1.] 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.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2.] 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 arguments.

         [¶3.] 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.

         [¶4.] 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.

         [¶5.] 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 use[1] and that she would never see her children again.

         [¶6.] 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.

         [¶7.] 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.

         [¶8.] 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 ...


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