Man pleads guilty to aggravated assault in crossbow attack on local TV weatherman

Becky Campbell • Feb 8, 2013 at 6:08 PM

A Johnson City man charged with shooting his ex-boyfriend with a crossbow pleaded guilty to the charge Friday in Washington County Criminal Court.

Gerald Taylor, 53, was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder and especially aggravated burglary for the assault on Rob Batot, known professionally on WJHL-TV as weatherman Rob Williams, at Williams’ home, where Taylor also once lived. But after reviewing the case further, the District Attorney General’s Office reduced the charges to aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon and perjury.

The perjury charge, lodged after Taylors’s arrest, resulted from what prosecutors say was a lie on Taylor’s affidavit of indigency, a court document detailing a defendant’s financial situation so a judge can determine if that person qualifies for a court-appointed attorney, which is what happened.

Once the case got to criminal court, Taylor was ordered to hire an attorney because by that time, he had already posted a $121,000 bond through B&F Bonding. That means he paid the bonding company $1,210 plus tax to get out of jail. Judges feel that if a defendant has money to pay a bondsman to get released from jail, they should have money to hire an attorney.

In the plea Friday, the burglary charge was reduced further because it was based on Taylor violating an order of protection. Assistant District Attorney General Erin McArdle said that order had not yet been fully implemented by a judge, so the charge was reduced to aggravated criminal trespassing. Additionally, the weapon charge was dismissed.

Taylor entered a “blind plea,” to the charges, which means there was no agreement from prosecutors on a sentence. Judge Robert Cupp set a sentencing hearing for March 4. Taylor’s attorney, Matt Spivey, also indicated he will apply for judicial diversion in the case.

McArdle said the state will oppose that type of disposition.

She said Taylor told the judge he went to Williams’ home after becoming bored while staying at a hotel, apparently to retrieve a toy crossbow. Taylor apparently didn’t think Williams would be home at that time of night. The incident happened around 3:30 a.m. June 4, 2012. Williams works the early morning news shift at WJHL-TV, and likely would have already been at work. But he was apparently off that day.

Taylor told Cupp that when Williams saw him with the crossbow “he went crazy,” according to McArdle.

The incident happened at 11 Ashworth Court, where the two men had lived for more than 10 years when their relationship ended, according to Williams’ testimony during a preliminary hearing in June.

Williams had also filed a petition for an order of protection against Taylor just a few days before the attack. Taylor apparently entered the house that night through a bedroom window and surprised Williams in his bedroom.

Williams retreated into a bathroom after being shot with the crossbow bolt, then exited after Taylor fired one gunshot. It was later determined Taylor fired the shot into the floor right outside the bathroom door.

Taylor is free on bond while the case is pending.

Police previously said Taylor shot bullets at Williams, but that was later clarified. No shots were fired at Williams as he fled from the house and called 911. When officers arrived, Taylor was located nearby sitting on a dock.

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