Suspended prison term in battery
March 25, 2014
A 39-year-old Gardnerville man was sentenced Monday to five years probation, including 30 days in Douglas County Jail, for his part in an altercation a year ago involving his wife and brother-in-law.
District Judge Michael Gibbons sentenced Travis Matthew Belles to four years in Nevada state prison, suspended, and ordered him to complete a 52-week anger management program, and perform 100 hours of community service.
Gibbons ordered Belles to reimburse the state crime victims fund more than $12,000 that paid his brother-in-law’s medical bills.
Belles was convicted in January by a jury of battery causing substantial bodily harm. He was acquitted of a charge of burglary.
During the April 21, 2013, incident, Belles’ wife was shot in the stomach by her brother, who claimed a handgun went off as he was trying to defend himself from Belles’ punches to his head.
Belles was accused of getting into an argument with 36-year-old Benjamin DuPreez who lived with Belles and his wife Rianilee in their home in the 1300 block of Waterloo along with the Belles’ then 22-month-old daughter.
Rianilee Belles and DuPreez claimed that the suspect beat DuPreez in the head knowing that the victim suffered previous head injuries and was vulnerable. DuPreez produced the loaded handgun, he said, to protect himself. DuPreez and Belles struggled over the weapon that discharged, striking Belles’ wife in the abdomen.
Following the shooting, Travis Belles reportedly followed DuPreez into the bathroom and punched him multiple times in the head.
She and DuPreez were both taken to Renown Regional Medical Center for treatment.
The Belles’ daughter slept through the incident, according to reports.
DuPreez and Rianilee Belles were not charged in the incident.
Both victims testified at the sentencing Monday, along with the defendant who said he forgave Rianilee Belles and her brother for what he said were lies.
“I have no ill will, and I won’t let bitterness and anger destroy me from the inside out. I forgive you all for the lies you have told before, during, and after the trial,” Travis Belles said.
“I can’t believe he is saying this stuff,” Rianilee Belles said, denying she and her brother had lied. “I know exactly what I saw. I was there.”
She claimed her husband pushed her into a wall, and slapped her in the face as she tried to take her daughter to safety.
DuPreez said since the incident he has become a prisoner in his own home.
“I am afraid to go anywhere because I fear Travis might be there to finish off what he started. I don’t know what I did to deserve this,” DuPreez said.
Both urged Gibbons to sentence Belles to the maximum.
Belles’ attorney, Derrick Lopez, pointed out that his only prior conviction was a citation, and he had no additional incidents in the past year.
Lopez said after DuPreez moved in with his sister and brother-in-law, the defendant began to feel like a “third wheel” in his own home.
He said they argued that evening, and Travis challenged DuPreez’s manhood, using language he knew was hurtful.
“The only way Benjamin has to end the altercation is to get the gun,” Lopez said. “He could have called police, the argument ended by displaying the firearm.”
Prosecutor Laurie Trotter asked for active prison time.
“It was a very serious crime of violence, of battery causing substantial bodily harm. Prison is appropriate to the crime. The victims have the right to feel protected for this period of time,” Trotter said.
Gibbons acknowledged that the case was not black and white.
“You hit him (DuPreez) when you shouldn’t have hit him,” Gibbons told Belles. “That fact is indisputable.”
Belles struck DuPreez, who reacted by getting the gun and putting a round in the chamber, Gibbons said.
“Everybody knows you don’t bring a gun to a fight unless you intend to use it,” Gibbons said.
He judged Belles to be at low risk because of his prior record, there were no drugs or alcohol involved, and he would lose all contact with his daughter.
“You have to realize,” Gibbons said to DuPreez, “you took a situation that did not have to be dangerous and you made it dangerous.”
Gibbons said he also took into consideration that the couple was in the process of getting divorced, there were protection orders in place, and he believed the offense did not merit prison, but he deserved incarceration.
He sentenced Belles to 30 days in jail with credit for four days time served.
His only contact with Rianilee is for custody exchange of their daughter, and he may not contact DuPreez at all.
He must abstain from drugs and alcohol, and cannot possess a weapon.