Judge allows body camera footage in malicious wounding case

FRONT ROYAL — Circuit Judge Ronald L. Napier agreed Tuesday to allow the prosecution to show body camera footage during the scheduled trial of a local man accused of maliciously harming a woman in February.

Paul Michael Sullivan, 36, has been charged with malicious wounding after he allegedly punched a woman repeatedly in the face and on her body at a motel.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna Hammond argued for entering into evidence three segments of body camera footage from the officers on the scene, as well as a 911 call a bystander made at the time of the incident. Sullivan’s attorney, David Crump, argued that the tapes would be hearsay and should not be admitted.

According to state law, evidence that is deemed to be hearsay, or information that is not first-hand, cannot be admitted into evidence unless it meets certain criteria, like a spontaneous statement made when describing an event or during the actual event, or statements made for medical treatment.

Hammond played the body camera footage and the 911 call for the court. In all the clips, the alleged victim can be heard crying as officers and emergency responders ask her questions about the incident. The woman is heard saying that Sullivan had just been released from jail and that he accused her of infidelities, which is why she said he attacked her.

Sullivan was convicted on drug possession, breaking and entering and grand larceny charges in 2013 after he broke into a woman’s house and stole her purse containing money and two pill bottles. He was sentenced to a total of six years imprisonment with all but six months suspended, but the some of the suspended sentence has been revoked twice since then for probation violations.

In the body camera footage, the woman is heard saying that Sullivan punched her several times, and the emergency responders questioning her noted injuries to her eye, shoulder and leg and urged her to allow them to take her to the hospital for treatment. In the 911 call, a man is heard saying that it sounds like a man and woman are fighting, but that he did not actually see any encounter.

Crump argued that the 911 call is simply “gross speculation” and the caller does not have firsthand knowledge of what happened. Hammond stipulated that she was not able to find the caller so that he could be cross examined by the defense, as it is their legal right to do, and added that the call is not testimonial, which would fall within the exception to the hearsay rule.

The defense also argued that the alleged victim, who was crying as she was questioned, had to be asked multiple times about what happened before she responded and that her having to be prompted meant that her statements were not spontaneous. Crump also argued that the statements made to EMTs were not for medical treatment because transportation to a hospital is not treatment.

Hammond argued that EMTs offer medical treatment.  Napier allowed all of the prosecution’s evidence to be admitted, noting the defense’s exceptions.

Sullivan remains in custody as he awaits trial,  which is set for Tuesday in Warren County Circuit Court.