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Judge finds former Johnson City policeman guilty of assault

July 22nd, 2011 4:44 pm by Becky Campbell

The he-said, she-said domestic assault case involving a former Johnson City police officer was resolved Friday when a judge found Jason East guilty of the charge.
East, 42, was convicted of simple domestic assault for an April 15 attack on his then-wife, Carmen Collins. Because he has no prior criminal convictions, East is eligible for judicial diversion, and it could be approved if a TBI background search comes back clean.
With diversion, East would likely be required to report to a probation officer for a year and if he doesn’t get into any more trouble, the conviction would be dismissed.
The state’s prosecutor, Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Kaylin Render, said she would oppose diversion. Render was appointed to prosecute the case because of East’s prior employment as a police officer and subsequent working relationship with the Washington County DA’s office.
Most of East’s trial in Washington County Sessions Court was heard last week, but the sitting judge, Unicoi County Sessions Judge David Shults, appointed for the same reason as Render, had to delay the remainder because of a scheduling problem.
East’s attorney, Jim Bowman, rested his case after playing the 911 call Collins made the night of the assault. In later comments, Bowman said he wanted to show the judge that Collins was not as upset as she, police and two neighbors she called that night described.
Render presented two rebuttal witnesses — a police officer who introduced a handgun recovered from East’s vehicle where he was located after the assault, and East’s first wife, Noreen Abernathy.
East had acted surprised and confused when police asked him where his gun was the night of the attack. The 911 dispatcher had asked Collins if East had a weapon. Collins told the dispatcher her husband owned a handgun, but she did not imply it was used in the assault.
Abernathy, with whom East shares a 10-year-old son, testified that during their two-year marriage East was violent and abusive. East had testified last week that he had never had any violent contact with his first wife, but had pushed his second wife on one occasion when they had an argument.
Pushing is all that East admitted he did during the altercation with Collins. He testified that after the two arrived home from spending time with friends, his wife became angry because their puppy had messed on the floor and she started yelling at him.
They have differing accounts of what happened — Collins testified that it was no big deal to her but East wasn’t happy about it and kicked her older dog who then messed on himself. East testified it was Collins who became angry at the puppy and pushed its face toward the poop and hit the dog.
He said Collins came at him and he pushed her away two different times and she may have fallen backward.
In making his ruling, Shults said the evidence — particular photographs that showed marks, scratches and bruises on Collins’ face, chest, back and knees — clearly showed there was more than two shoves involved, as East had claimed.
Shults reset the sentencing portion of the trial for Aug. 23.

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