Trial for domestic abuse begins

LIHUE — The trial for a man who a woman said punched her 15 times because he wanted a cigarette began Monday in the Fifth Circuit Court.

Joseph Lopez III was homeless and living with the complaining witness outside of the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall on Feb. 13 when he asked her for a cigarette, said deputy prosecutor Jenna Tatsey.

When she said they had smoked it the day before, he got mad and began hitting her, Tatsey told the jurors.

“He started hitting her multiple times, in the head, on the back of her upper shoulders,” Tatsey said. “She had to put her arms up to block the hits.”

Lopez is charged with abuse of family or household member for allegedly physically abusing his former girlfriend.

The complaining witness testified before Fifth Circuit Court Chief Judge Randal Valenciano and the jury Monday and said she feared for her life.

“I begged him to stop,” she said.

She said she had injuries to her head, neck, forearms, shoulder, and wrist due to being repeatedly punched.

Her injuries included bumps on her head, redness to her back and a bruise on her arm, Tatsey said. A friend stopped by to pick her up and the two left, she said.

But the defense painted a slightly different tale before the 12-member jury.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” said defense attorney Shauna Cahill. “If you do, you’ll never know the true story inside.”

It took the complaining witness and her friend more than an hour and a half to call the Kauai Police Department to report the alleged abuse. The state and the defense had two different reasons as to what was the cause of the delayed reporting.

“I was shaken up and scared,” the complaining witness said. “I had to get a grasp of everything.”

Cahill told the jurors that the complaining witness was not scared of her client and didn’t act as though the situation was an emergency.

The complaining witness had just been abused, so she was upset and just wanted to get away, Tatsey argued. The women went to Wilcox Elementary School to hide some of the complaining witness’ belongings, McDonald’s for breakfast and to get cleaned up, then 7-Eleven for coffee where they ran into Lopez again, Tatsey said.

She said the complaining witness was scared of Lopez.

Cahill said her client, Lopez, was reaching inside the complaining witness’ bag to pull out a cigarette, when “he saw the drugs.” The complaining witness was upset about him finding the drugs and “was out to get him,” Cahill told the jurors.

Her injuries did not match what she told police, Cahill said.

During cross-examination, the complaining witness said she could not remember what she told the police on the day of the incident, stating “she was frazzled.”

Lopez has prior convictions. In 2008, Lopez was convicted of drug paraphernalia where he spent one year in jail and in 1999 and 2000, Lopez spent five days in jail for violating an order for protection and harrassment by stalking.

Evidence presented included witness testimony and photos of injuries.

Day two of the trial continues today.


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