First Strangulation Prosecution Comes Up Short
City Man Found Guilty Of Assault And Battery
Posted: November 15, 2012
HARRISONBURG — A Rockingham County jury found a Harrisonburg man accused of strangling his girlfriend guilty of a lesser charge Wednesday.
Jurors found Stacey Tyrone Organ, 48, of the 500 block of Vine Street, guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery following his trial in Rockingham County Circuit Court.
He had been charged with felony strangulation, the first case in the county since the charge became law last year.
Previously, strangling fell under Virginia’s assault and battery statutes, unless the injuries were serious enough to upgrade the charge to felony malicious wounding.
The jury sentenced Organ to six months in jail.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ben Cline, a state delegate who sponsored the legislation that made strangulation a felony, told jurors during opening arguments that the assault took place on July 28, following a cookout at Organ’s home.
During the day, Cline said, Organ began drinking alcohol.
“As the alcohol flowed, the mood changed,” he said. “It changed for the defendant. Jealousy reared its ugly head.”
He said Organ began to accuse his girlfriend of being unfaithful.
She left the party and went home.
A few minutes later, prosecutors say, Organ left his home and went to the victim’s residence about 10 minutes away. On the way, he called her and accused her of having a man at her home.
Cline told jurors that she opened the door when he arrived hoping he would see that no one was there and leave.
But instead, he attacked and choked her, Cline said.
Prosecutors showed the jurors pictures of injuries to the victim’s neck.
Organ’s defense attorney, Bryan Cave, said his client never attacked his girlfriend. He agreed that alcohol was flowing, but told jurors that the victim also had been drinking and alcohol influences people’s memories.
Cave also suggested that some of the witnesses weren’t truthful.
“Memories tend to get a little fuzzy and selective,” he said. “Some things don’t add up.”
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