Man guilty of misdemeanor

GREENFIELD — A jury of 12 Hancock County residents decided Wednesday night a Greenfield man is guilty of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge — but not of felony battery as a pregnant woman had accused him earlier this year.

After spending seven hours deliberating Wednesday, the jury found Gary Henderson, 34, of Greenfield guilty of one Class A misdemeanor of domestic battery and not guilty of the one Level 5 felony count of battery on a pregnant woman resulting in injury which he also faced.

Henderson was arrested and charged earlier this year after he was accused of inappropriately grabbing a woman, who was 37 weeks pregnant at the time, and pulling her hair during a fight at his home. Henderson claimed self-defense, testifying during the two-day trial he believed the woman should also be held accountable for her part in the fight.

After the jury returned its verdict, Henderson asked the judge to sentence him and fully conclude the criminal case. The judge ordered that Henderson serve a year on probation and attended at least 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling.

Henderson was charged in March after the victim told police she’d been battered by the man while she tried to leave his Greenfield home.

The woman took the stand on the first day of testimony to tell jurors how Henderson became angry with her, grabbed her by the arms and violently pulled her hair. When she got away from him, she climbed in her car and drove away from the house. Henderson got in his own car and followed her, she said.

She called 911 because she feared for her safety, she testified.

But Henderson, who took the stand in his own defense Tuesday, told jurors he was trying only to protect himself from the alleged victim when their argument became violent. He said their exchange became physical after the woman realized Henderson was taking items from her car, some of which he testified belonged to him.

Henderson told jurors Tuesday it was the woman who then attacked him; he was trying to defend himself when the fight broke out, he said. She bit him on the chest, and he grabbed her by the hair to pull her off, he said.

The victim admitted from the witness stand Monday she bit Henderson on the chest as she was trying to get away from him. She said Henderson grabbed her by the hair and nearly pulled her to ground by her ponytail. She said she tried several times to push Henderson off of her and yelled at him to stop.

The woman testified that, once she got away from Henderson, she got into her car and drove away from his home. Henderson began following her in his own vehicle, and she called 911 because she was scared, she said.

She told the dispatcher what happened and gave her a description of Henderson’s car. The 911 operator directed her to a spot where she could safely meet up with an officer, the victim testified Monday.

But Henderson told the jury Tuesday he wasn’t following the woman with intentions of harming her; he was just trying to get his belongings back, he said.

He drove behind her for a short time through Greenfield city streets but eventually decided to go home. He was still driving behind her when a police officer stopped his car near the intersection of McKenzie Road and State Street; but he wasn’t following her, he said.

Deputy Prosecutor Cathy Wilson asked jurors during her closing argument not to believe Henderson’s side of the tale.

The case, Wilson said, came down to the defendant’s need to have power and control over the victim. Henderson didn’t like that the woman planned to leave the house, so he became violent, attempting to scare the woman and manipulate her into staying, Wilson said.

His actions were inexcusable, Wilson said as she asked the jury to find the defendant guilty; the woman could leave that home at any time.

“That’s her right,” Wilson said. “She gets to make that decision.”

Henderson’s defense attorney argued her client acted in self-defense and should never have been criminally charged.

Nicole Zelin told the jury Henderson’s actions on that afternoon might have been immature, but they weren’t criminal.

Zelin argued it was the woman who started the fight, biting and injuring Henderson, leaving a red mark on his chest. Henderson only pulled the woman’s hair while attempting to get away from her, Zelin said; the force he used matched the force she used, Zelin said.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.