IM man convicted on lesser assault charge

DAMION SINCLAIR AWAITS the jury’s verdict Thursday in Dickinson County Circuit Court. Behind him is his standby counsel, Michael Scholke. (Nikki Younk/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — An Iron Mountain man accused in Dickinson County Circuit Court of beating and choking a woman last year was found guilty by jury Thursday of a lesser assault charge — reducing his maximum possible incarceration from life to 93 days — and cleared of an interfering with electronic communications felony.

But 41-year-old Damion Antonique-Don-Tay Sinclair’s legal issues haven’t ended yet. He has been arraigned on a new charge of bribing, intimidating or interfering with a witness in a criminal case, a 10-year felony, for reportedly calling his accuser from jail Jan. 11 in an effort to influence her testimony at his trial this week.

The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning before returning the verdict of guilty to assault and battery, a 93-day misdemeanor, and not guilty to interfering with electronic communications, a two-year felony.

On the assault portion, they had the option to convict on assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder or by strangulation, a 10-year felony; convict on the misdemeanor assault charge; or to acquit.

If Sinclair had been found guilty of either felony, his habitual offender-fourth status would have enhanced the maximum penalties to life on the assault charge and 15 years on the interfering with electronic communications charge.

Sinclair has a Feb. 5 preliminary examination on the witness intimidation charge in district court and a March 6 sentencing on the assault charge in circuit court.

Sinclair had represented himself at trial after claiming he and his court-appointed attorney, Michael Scholke, disagreed on defense strategy. However, Judge Mary Barglind ordered Scholke to act as Sinclair’s standby counsel for legal questions only.

The woman and Sinclair agreed in their testimony they had dated on and off since late 2015 or early 2016 and had physical fights from time to time.

The two had discussions between January and May 2017 about “rekindling” their relationship, the woman said, but she grew upset about Sinclair’s “lies and games.”

So she asked Sinclair May 31 in a text about the status of their relationship. Both she and Sinclair agreed she made threats to hurt herself in the texts.

Sinclair testified he went to her Iron Mountain home to check on her well-being. The two began talking, which escalated to arguing and then a physical fight, they said.

Sinclair held her down, hit her in the left eye with a closed fist, slapped her cheeks, put his hands on her throat and squeezed until she had trouble breathing, according to the woman’s testimony.

But Sinclair claimed the woman was the first to attack and he only hit her in the process of trying to hold her down and calm her. The woman did say Sinclair told her at the time he was trying to “snap (her) out of it,” referring to her previous threats of harm to herself.

Sinclair testified the woman attempted to swallow pills from a bottle and he put a hand on her throat to get her to spit out the pills. He later put his arm on her throat while reaching for his phone to text a friend or take a Snapchat video of the incident, he said.

The woman denied taking or attempting to take any pills other than three sleeping pills before Sinclair’s arrival.

Her phone was smashed at some point during the incident, and she testified she didn’t break it. Sinclair said he never broke her phone but claimed she broke his.

Dickinson County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kristin Kass had argued photos of the woman’s injuries and the altercation site corroborated the woman’s version of the story and not Sinclair’s.

Sinclair, however, was persistent in questioning the validity of the photos, pointing out some supposedly were taken the day after the incident and their time stamps could have been modified.