Man admits coercion in altercation with girlfriend
A 27-year-old Gardnerville man, accused of burning his girlfriend’s lip with a lighted cigarette and threatening to kill her, pleaded guilty Monday to coercion and plans to ask for probation at sentencing.
Eric A. Smith was charged with battery that constitutes domestic violence committed by strangulation and coercion, both felonies, stemming from a New Year’s Day incident at the 41-year-old woman’s apartment.
Smith said Monday the woman had been his girlfriend for about five months. He denied several of the allegations, but said he had been drinking and couldn’t remember everything that happened.
In a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office, Smith pleaded guilty to coercion which carries a longer maximum sentence of six years, but is probatable.
If he pleaded guilty to the strangulation charge, Smith would have to go to prison for a minimum of 12 months.
Gibbons advised the suspect that with his criminal history, the chance of probation “was not too good.”
Gibbons also ordered Smith held without bail after prosecutor Laurie Trotter asked that it be raised from $2,500 to $5,000 cash.
“The defendant is a three-time felon, he’s been sent to prison and has a parole violation. We believe he is a flight risk. He has two domestic violence arrests and previous domestic battery convictions. He is a threat to the victim. She is still very fearful of the defendant. He has two prior DUIs, and based on his own admission, this incident involved alcohol,” Trotter said.
Smith either denied most of the victim’s allegations or said he couldn’t remember.
“Mr. Smith has finally come to the point where he acknowledges he might not be able to recall everything,” said lawyer Tod Young. “He’s seen some photos, she got hit in the head, he was drinking. He consumed a great deal of alcohol. It was a New Year’s Eve thing.”
Smith told Gibbons all he remembered was taking the victim’s cell phone and eyeglasses.
“We were both intoxicated and taking drugs. The next thing I know, I was in handcuffs,” Smith said. “It all started because she was looking at my cell phone and seen some pictures of another female.”
Trotter said the victim’s friends observed the burn under her tongue and would verify that Smith continued to follow her to another residence.
She said they would corroborate damage to the victim’s apartment and that photos of the victim’s injuries were consistent with strangulation and head-butting.
The victim had bruising and swelling on her face, retinal and petechial hemorrhaging consistent with strangulation and head-butting, Trotter said.
“She (the victim) has not changed her story. He beat her head against the wall, held his fingers around her neck with increasing force. She couldn’t breathe. She said she was in fear for her life during the whole event. The defendant said he was going to kill her,” Trotter said.
Young said part of the plea agreement is that the state won’t pursue habitual offender status or pursue other charges.
Gibbons set sentencing for March 14.