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Jury renders split verdict in assault trial

steven eugene paysingerLa Plata, MD - There comes a time when confronted with extreme circumstances where emotions are running high, where the simplest and most rational thing to do is call the police.

Steven Michael Paysinger, 33 of Waldorf, failed to do that March 10, 2016, when after leaving an ex parte hearing at the Charles County Circuit Court, went to his Waldorf home to find his ex-girlfriend’s parents removing items from his house.

Instead of calling officers, he entered the house, spurring a series of events that landed him in that same courthouse facing nine counts ranging from first-degree assault to violation of the protection order he was presented with earlier in the day.

A Charles County Circuit Court jury sitting before Judge Amy J. Bragunier returned a split verdict Thursday, Aug. 24, finding Paysinger not guilty of first-degree assault and two second-degree assault charges, but finding him guilty of two second-degree assault charges, malicious destruction of property and three counts of violating a protective order.

Charles County Assistant States Attorney John A. Stackhouse presented a case that alleged Paysinger choked Darnell Everett, the 65-year-old father of his girlfriend, after finding the man's wife and the girlfriend’s three children in his house removing items that he claimed were not his children’s. Paysinger, who took the stand in his own defense during the trial denied ever choking Everett.

The children were allowed by Bragunier to return to the house to retrieve their clothing and items, but the defendant was urged by the judge to have a police officer accompany them. “I want to be there,” Paysinger allegedly said during the hearing.

“It’s probably a better idea if you’re not there,” Bragunier had told him.

Paysinger, a welder by trade, told the court at that time that he was going to a union meeting but ended up going by his house instead.

There were moments of testimony in the March 10, 2016 case that even by Stackhouse’s own admission bordered on ludicrous. The malicious destruction of property charge and two second-degree assault charges the defendant was convicted of resulted from Paysinger bashing the Everett’s car with a clothing iron swinging it by its cord.

The prosecutor alleged that the defendant at one point grabbed a knife from the butcher’s block in the kitchen to go after Everett, but police did not find a knife. Stackhouse also claimed that Paysinger smashed a kitchen stool against his teenage step-daughter when she tried to come to the aid of her grandfather. The jury found Paysinger not guilty on the felony charges in the fight with Everett and his granddaughter. The two second-degree assault charges involving the two younger children who were in Everett’s car came from his smashing the iron against the window of the car where they were sitting inside.

Stackhouse said an 11-second video filmed by the teenage daughter, “proved he was out of control. You can hear the defendant in the video saying, ‘I’m going to beat your ass old man,’ and ‘I’m gonna whup your old ass.’ When the defendant took the stand, he chose to lie.”

Paysinger’s attorney Joseph Vallario Jr., successfully argued that just because his client said he was going to a union meeting didn’t mean he couldn’t go by his house first. “If the daughter had a key to the house, why was the alarm going off?” Vallario argued.

Vallario alleged that Everett, a former Golden Gloves boxer, punched Paysinger first, leading to the fight that followed. He argued that the children were not harmed in any way.

“He just wanted these people out of his house,” Vallario stated. “You can hear him on the video clip shouting, ‘you’re not supposed to be here, get out of my house.’ ”

The attorney argued that his client didn’t violate the protection order—the grandparents brought them to the defendant’s house without an officer as instructed by the court.

Paysinger told the judge he provided for those children for five years, giving them the “top of the line” in clothing and “everything they needed.”

“They were living on 51st Street in Southeast DC when I got with their mother,” the defendant said. “I broke my back working for them so I could provide for them. I bought a $300,000 house in Waldorf and moved them down here so they could have a better life.”

“You had every right to tell them to get off of your property,” Bragunier said in handing down a 10-year sentence. “This could all have been avoided if you’d called the police. Your reaction was out of proportion. It’s just stuff. It’s not worth terrorizing these people over.”

Bragunier gave Paysinger credit for 209 days credit and on the malicious destruction of property conviction gave him 209 days with credit for time served. Counts seven, eight and nine, violation of protection order, she gave the defendant 90 days for each count but credit them to the 209 days for time served.

On count four, second-degree assault, she handed down a 10-year sentence to be served consecutively to the previous sentence of 13 years imposed in an animal cruelty and second-degree assault conviction last December. Count five, also second-degree assault, netted another 10 years concurrent to count four but consecutive to counts six through nine.

Stackhouse, who had asked for 23 years, said Paysinger would probably only end up serving a third of his overall sentence.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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