Jury acquits Mount Airy man in incident involving ex-wife Jury apparently accepted defense portrayal of woman

September 19, 1995|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County jury yesterday acquitted a Mount Airy man who was accused of choking and beating his former wife during an argument.

Ernest Robert Thomas Jr., 30, had been charged with assault and battery after a Jan. 19 argument he had with his former wife, Tina Dorn.

Police had said Mr. Thomas, who pleaded guilty to similar charges involving Ms. Dorn in 1992, had grabbed his former wife around the throat and held her several inches above the floor.

The two were separated in November 1992, and divorced in November 1994.

The jury of seven women and five men, however, chose to believe the defense's version of the story, which painted Ms. Dorn as a woman scorned and angry because her former husband had begun dating her first cousin.

Mr. Thomas married the cousin in June.

"She manipulated the system, either to get Mr. Thomas back or to get him hurt," Assistant Public Defender Joyce Phillips said yesterday, noting that Ms. Dorn visited Mr. Thomas at the Carroll County Detention Center.

Ms. Phillips also argued that Ms. Dorn was not a credible witness because she has been convicted of shoplifting. In addition, Ms. Dorn dropped the charges, then reinstated them when her sister-in-law became guardian of the couple's daughter.

Prosecutor David P. Daggett, however, pointed out that Ms. Dorn's story has been confirmed by police reports and photographs taken by the officer at the scene.

He also said that, regardless of what happened between the two, no one deserves to be beaten.

"Whether you like Tina Dorn or not, you can't think that she had it coming," he said. "That doesn't give him the right to hit her."

Jurors did not hear about Mr. Thomas' prior conviction because he did not take the stand.

In 1992, as part of a plea agreement, Mr. Thomas pleaded guilty to assault with intent to maim and malicious destruction in an attack on his former wife.

Court records state that Mr. Thomas broke into Ms. Dorn's home during May 1992 and cut her face with a pair of scissors.

Prosecutors dropped assault with intent to murder and battery charges. Mr. Thomas was sentenced to two years on the maiming conviction and three more for malicious destruction.

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