A Rock Springs man who allegedly beat his Cody girlfriend spent the better part of two hours in Park County Circuit Court Thursday morning, under a legal microscope to decide whether his actions rose to the level of felonious charges.
Anthony Maestas, 36, is charged with influencing or intimidating a witness, aggravated assault and battery, and a misdemeanor for domestic battery.
It was revealed in court that Maestas’ girlfriend, Joann Berryman, had incorrectly stated she was pregnant at the time of the Dec. 17 domestic violence incident between the two. According to the court affidavit, Berryman had told Cody Police Officer Tyler Eubanks that Maestas was informed that night she was pregnant. Yet in court Thursday she recanted this information and said he never had knowledge of this information, nor was she ever pregnant.
“I had some positive pregnancy tests, but I did not have confirmation 100%,” Berryman said during the hearing.
Six days after that altercation, Berryman was brought into the Park County Detention Center on a probation violation of her own. While there, she was given a pregnancy test, to which she came back negative. There was no proof she had a miscarriage during that time period.
“I don’t know enough about anatomy to determine that,” Eubanks said during the hearing.
That piece of information is critical because the element of pregnancy elevates Maestas’ charge from a misdemeanor for domestic battery to a felony of aggravated assault.
“There’s some fascinating case laws related to this one,” Judge Bruce Waters said.
Waters said he was “not sure” the felony charge related to such would make it to a jury trial.
The question is, if the victim incorrectly states that they are pregnant, does it change the nature of the crime?
Waters referred to the Wyoming assault and battery statute which includes causing bodily injury when the suspect knows the victim is pregnant.
In court he referenced a 2003 Wyoming Supreme Court case, Thomas Glenn v. State of Wyoming, that dealt with some very similar issues.
In that case, Glenn disputed the State’s charges that he had assaulted a victim who was pregnant at the time. Although that victim said she was pregnant, she never supplied any medical documentation to prove so and said she had a miscarriage.
The Supreme Court sided with the State and victim in that case.
Also similarly to that case, Maestas is disputing that he influenced or intimidated Berryman. Glenn was accused of calling witnesses in his case and telling them what to say, which was ruled by the Supreme Court as intimidation.
In court, Maestas said he visited Berryman and the two engaged in an argument about her cheating, not the two prior domestic battery cases filed on him by Berryman. Berryman backed this statement up.
When asked if she loves Maestas, Berryman responded, “very much.”
“People deserve the chance to get treatment,” Berryman said. “Things did happen … but I’m not going to allow lies to happen.
But when police arrested Maestas at Berryman’s apartment in December, he began yelling at Berryman to “stick to the story we talked about,” and that she, “know(s) what to say.”
“It was about command and control,” said county deputy prosecuting attorney Larry Eichele. “Those resources are the physical forces he applied.”
Although this may seem a weak charge of intimidation, Waters said Maestas’ role in the domestic relationship helped it pass the bar of reasonable doubt.
The judge bound the case over to District Court and set Maestas’ cash-only bond at $110,450.
Rock Springs man faces other charges
In court, Joann Berryman admitted her boyfriend Anthony Maestas contacted her while he was in jail, despite being instructed not to talk to her as part of his probation conditions stemming from his charges of assaulting her.
“Well, it’s clear you don’t give a rip about court orders whatsoever,” circuit court judge Bruce Waters said to Maestas. “I have deep concerns for the safety of the victim even if she may not share that concern.”
Berryman disputed this synopsis and mentioned she is currently a patient at the Cedar Mountain Center.
During Thursday’s hearing, Maestas pleaded guilty to domestic battery from a November incident with Berryman, and no contest to simple battery against another prisoner at PCDC.
In that Jan. 14 jail fight, inmate Kaleb Rentz accused Maestas of punching him in the face. After reviewing video surveillance, deputies found that Rentz deflected Maestas’ punch and the event de-escalated quickly.
In the lead up to that altercation Maestas said he walked away from Rentz multiple times but Rentz continued calling him names. Maestas said he intentionally stopped short of hitting Rentz as a way to stop him from more verbal abuse.
“I tried to do everything I could to avoid it (a fight). I thought that if I tried to scare him away” Maestas said.
Waters quickly cut him off.
“OK we’re done here,” he said.
Maestas received a $450 fine for the simple assault which he can earn $15 a day towards paying off while in jail.
He will face sentencing for the November domestic battery on Jan. 29.
Felony charges against Maestas for influencing a witness in the November case were dismissed without prejudice.
“There is no testimony involved to indicate force was involved in this particular matter,” Timothy Blatt, Maestas’ public defender said. “He was trying to talk to Ms. Berryman to give a statement that would probably help him.”