IM man’s assault case goes to jury

DAMION SINCLAIR, RIGHT, testifies in his own defense as Judge Mary Barglind looks on during his January trial in Dickinson County Circuit Court. (Nikki Younk/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Jurors this morning continued deliberations in the case of an Iron Mountain man accused of beating and choking a woman during a May 31 altercation and then smashing her phone so she couldn’t call for help.

The group of eight women and four men spent more than two hours Wednesday evening in Dickinson County Circuit Court discussing 41-year-old Damion Antonique-Don-Tay Sinclair’s case before informing Judge Mary Barglind they wanted to break for the day and resume work in the morning. 

Based on a question asked of the judge, the jury appeared to be debating the definition of “great bodily harm.”

Sinclair faces assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder or by strangulation, a 10-year felony; interfering with electronic communications, a two-year felony; and a habitual offender-fourth notice, which increases the maximum penalties to life and 15 years, respectively.

However, the jury could choose to convict Sinclair on the lesser charge of misdemeanor assault and battery.

Sinclair, who represented himself at trial this week, took the stand in his own defense Wednesday to provide his account of the May 31 incident.

Although he hoped to call five other witnesses to testify, both Dickinson County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kristin Kass and Barglind had concerns about their relevance to the case. Barglind allowed them to testify outside the presence of the jury and determined only one, Lisa Martin, provided relevant character information.

Sinclair broke down with emotion as he began to tell a somewhat different story than his accuser had testified to earlier this week.

He agreed there had been violence in their on-and-off relationship but claimed he only hit her when she attacked first. 

The woman had threatened in a text message May 31 that she would hurt herself, prompting him to check on her well-being at her home, he said.

Sinclair claimed she was upset with him because while they had been working on their relationship, he was thinking of ending it because he would be “leaving for awhile.” What the jury didn’t hear was Sinclair was “leaving” to serve jail time for violating the Sex Offender Registration Act.

As the conversation between the two became more heated, the woman “started swinging,” Sinclair testified. He said he tried to block her and ended up hitting her, then held her down on the floor until she calmed down.

Once she got up, Sinclair said she ran to the bathroom and took out a bag of drugs. Sinclair said he threw the bag in the toilet, but the woman grabbed a pill bottle and put it to her mouth. Worried about her previous comments to harm herself, Sinclair said he put a hand on her throat to get her to spit out the pills.

The struggle continued as Sinclair said he tried to wrestle scissors away from the woman. 

The woman then grabbed one of Sinclair’s phones and threw it, he testified. He held her down with his arm on her neck so he could reach his other phone to text a friend or take a Snapchat video of the incident, he added.

Sinclair said he eventually left the house and then came back inside to find the woman accusing him of breaking her phone. Not wanted to get her in trouble or committed to a psychiatric ward, he said he decided against calling the police.

Martin testified she witnessed a May 2017 phone call Sinclair received from the woman in which she yelled and screamed at him and Sinclair remained calm. 

Sinclair then played a number of short voicemails from the woman in which she sounded alternately angry and sad.

Kass claimed Sinclair’s story was inconsistent through his cross-examination and didn’t fit police photos of the site, particularly the bathroom, which had no apparent signs of a struggle.

The woman’s story, in which she described being punched and choked, was consistent to police, the doctor who treated her and in court, Kass pointed out.

Even if Sinclair’s story was true, he still admitted to hitting the woman and placing his hands and arm on her neck, Kass added.