Man found guilty of lesser charge in domestic assault case

Paul Michael Sullivan

FRONT ROYAL — A jury of eight men and four women on Tuesday found a local man guilty of assault and battery in what was originally a malicious wounding case.

Paul Michael Sullivan, 36, was charged with malicious wounding after he repeatedly punched Kristen Ketron in the face on Feb. 20 at the Budget Inn in town during an argument that escalated to a physical altercation.

His attorney, David Crump, made a motion to strike the prosecution’s case, arguing that Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna Hammond did not prove malicious intent in the alleged physical altercation because crimes of passion are not malicious. Circuit Judge Ronald L. Napier granted the defense motion, leaving the jury to consider felony unlawful wounding or assault and battery.

Ketron testified that she and Sullivan, her fiancé at the time, had been arguing for days over her infidelities. She said that on the night of the incident, the two had been drinking vodka despite Ketron’s advice against it. She also testified that Sullivan had been calling her derogatory names in that motel room, even arguing with her while she was in the shower.

After she got out of the shower, she testified, Sullivan ripped the towel off of her and she punched him in the face in response. He then threw her on the bed and struck her in the face repeatedly, she testified, and she kicked him in the face to both get him off of her and to hurt him. Ketron had also thrown a lamp at Sullivan at some point during the altercation, she testified.

A person in a neighboring motel room called 911, and Front Royal Police Officers Olivia Meadows and Jeremy Seal responded. Seal’s bodycam footage was admitted into evidence, and showed the two arriving at the motel room’s cracked door to Ketron and Sullivan arguing. Sullivan closed the door in the officers’ faces, and when officers opened the door they immediately arrested Sullivan.

Ketron was taken to Warren Memorial Hospital to be treated for her injuries, and Dr. Richard Nanna, the lead emergency room physician for the hospital, testified that Ketron was so hysterical at the hospital that he had to sedate her. He said a CT scan of her head showed a “blowout fracture,” which is caused from the impact of a blunt object, of the orbital bones around her left eye, where there was apparent bruising. Ketron also suffered a nose contusion, Nanna testified, along with other scratches and marks on her body.

Crump argued that his client purely acted in self defense after the alleged victim punched and kicked him in the face, calling Ketron a “crazy person who’s throwing lamps,” and argued that words alone are not enough to justify an assault. He also argued that Sullivan was injured in the altercation as well, and the officers that arrived on the scene assumed he was the “primary aggressor” because he is a man. Crump also zeroed in on Ketron’s past misdemeanor convictions in his closing argument, stating that she knows how to manipulate the system and started crying only when she was alone with officers that night.

“This is not a good woman,” Crump said of the victim. “I’m sorry, but she’s not.”

Hammond responded saying that Crump’s argument was “the biggest case of victim blaming I’ve ever heard.” She added that Ketron may not be perfect, but that doesn’t justify having her face “broken in.” Hammond rebutted the defense’s argument that this it was an act of self defense, saying that the response was not proportionate to Ketron’s actions.

“She punched him, and he beat her,” Hammond argued.

After finding Sullivan guilty of the lesser charge of assault and battery, the jury recommended a sentence of six months in jail and a $1,250 fine, which is the midpoint of the maximum possible sentence of 12 months and $2,500 fine. Sullivan has already served the jury’s recommendation, but also has probation violations from this charge on which he is still being held.

A probation revocation hearing was set for Nov. 13, where Napier will also impose the sentence on this charge where he can either uphold the jury’s sentencing recommendation or give Sullivan a lighter sentence.