COLUMBIA — A Boone County jury found Varnell Bradley guilty Thursday night of second-degree domestic assault.
Although Bradley, 35, had been convicted of four separate counts of domestic assault in 10 years, he had spent little more than two years in prison. This charge – his fifth – will send him back there for 10 to 30 years.
His history makes Bradley a “persistent offender,” meaning he faces a much longer imprisonment than a first timer. But that affects only Bradley’s punishment. The jury, which deliberated for two hours, was not told about his prior offenses.
If a defendant does not testify, his prior convictions can't be brought up in court, Boone County District Defender David Wallis said.
“As far as they know, he’s just a guy,” Wallis said.
The jury returned a not guilty verdict for felonious restraint, the second charge Bradley faced in the trial.
The case stemmed from an incident last June when prosecutors say Bradley punched Petra Jordan in the nose, then later held her down while police tried to enter the apartment. Jordan is the mother of Bradley’s two boys, who are 8 and 11 years old, and the victim of a previous assault by Bradley in 2011.
Jordan didn’t want to testify in court because she had gone out drinking earlier that night and had a fuzzy recollection of the details of what happened on June 30, 2012, but was required to by the court.
“I am afraid he could go to jail for things he didn’t do,” she testified, reading aloud from a letter she had written to Boone County Circuit Court Judge Christine Carpenter.
She testified that Bradley had not held her down but that she did not go to the door when police arrived because she was afraid of being arrested for driving under the influence earlier in the evening.
During his closing argument, Boone County assistant prosecutor Corey Carter said Jordan feared retribution from Bradley and lied about being afraid of arrest.
“That’s an illegitimate fear,” Carter said. “It’s a fabricated fear. It’s the story she’s telling today.”
The elements of truth and fear were prevalent in both attorneys’ arguments. Boone County public defender Kevin Lorenz said the victim lied to police at the time of the incident because she was angry at Bradley.
“Her fear really just shows that they were in an argument,” Lorenz said.
Jordan testified that she was angry with Bradley over a miscarriage she had before the June 30 incident. Jordan cried after Lorenz asked her if she blamed Bradley for the miscarriage because he had told her that he didn’t want the child.
“I still do (blame him),” she said.
The prosecution played a recording of the 911 call the victim made the night of June 30. Her crying and Bradley's swearing were all that were audible.
“She didn’t know what to say because she hadn’t concocted her lie yet,” Lorenz said. “The truth came out here today.”
Dr. Orlando Heredia, an emergency room physician at Boone Hospital Center, testified that he diagnosed Jordan with a broken nose and concussion the night of the incident and said she had been vomiting in the hospital room, likely because of the concussion.
Columbia police were dispatched to Jordan’s apartment at 3:37 a.m. on June 30. When they arrived, Officer Rick Mabe said he and other officers noticed blood droplets on the foyer outside the apartment and on the sidewalk outside it. Officers knocked on the door and heard a woman crying and what sounded like a TV. Officers waited 24 minutes before breaking down the door.
Mabe said the living room was empty when they walked into the apartment. He said he heard a man's voice on the back porch to the apartment and found Bradley there. After searching the house, Mabe said officers found Jordan in the bedroom, crying. Officers noticed a pair of khaki shorts with blood on them in the bedroom to the apartment.
Bradley's sentencing is scheduled for March 11.