Trial of alleged assaulter goes to jury

La Plata, MD - One thing James Darnell Barnes didn’t expect to happen on Christmas night a year-and-a-half ago was to be beaten and kicked while at a home on Shiloh Church Road in Newburg. So severe were his injuries that Barnes was transported to Prince George’s Shock Trauma Unit.

One of the five men accused of participating in the assault, Justin Lafrance Holton, 44 of Newburg, was on probation at the time of the incident and maintains he did not participate in the beating.

The woman who invited Barnes to her home that Christmas night says he did.

Somewhere inbetween lies the truth.

A Charles County Circuit Court jury must decide whose story they believe.

In the case that began Monday, Aug. 3 and stretched into Tuesday morning before Judge Amy J. Bragunier, Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Jonathan Beattie revealed the testimony of Iesha Jenkins, who said she left the house and returned to find her twin brothers and others beating and kicking Barnes “from his head to his toes.”

It wasn’t until she told the men she was calling the police that they scattered, she stated.

Beattie asked if the defendant participated in the beating.

“In my mind it was all of them,” Jenkins responded.

Defense Attorney Joseph F. Vallario Jr.’s questions initially were not about the defendant, but focused on the fact that Jenkins failed to appear to testify as a key witness on previous occasions in the subsequent jury trials of the other four defendants, and that the state had to subpoena her to testify in this case.

She admitted that was true.

“You had to be here,” he queried.

“I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do,” she said.

Vallario also attacked a point in the police report of the incident which only mentions her brothers as the attackers and not his client.

“Did you write the police report?” Beattie asked Jenkins on cross examination.

“No,” she replied.

Barnes testified that he remembered going out to the Elks Lodge that night, ending up at Jenkins house, admitting he had a couple of beers and two drinks with gin and juice.

“I fell asleep, and next thing I know, I got people dancing on my head for no reason at all,” he testified.

When Beattie asked if he knew how many people were involved, or if he could identify any of the attackers, Barnes responded he could not.

Barnes said he lost four teeth, suffered from headaches six months after the attack and initially had to be taken back to the hospital when doctors discovered he was bleeding internally.

Vallario’s law partner, Webster Ye, asked Barnes if he remembered seeing his client during the attack.

“I didn’t see anybody,” he responded.

When Ye pressed Barnes for information about the attack, the witness became agitated.

“I was beaten until I was unconscious,” he said. “How can a person who was beaten unconscious remember that? I don’t know anything.”

After the last state’s witness testified, Vallario made a motion for acquittal, which Bragunier denied. He also tried to get the charge reduced from first degree to second degree assault, which the judge also declined.

“Let the jury decide,” she said.

When testimony resumed Tuesday, Officer Glover of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office stated that when he arrived at Jenkins home the night of the assault, he found Barnes too intoxicated to talk to.

“He couldn’t respond to my questions,” the officer said.

When Vallario asked why he wrote that Jenkins’ two brothers dragged Barnes out of the house and that Holton was not mentioned in the police reports, Glover responded, “that’s what she told me.”

Holton testified that because of his 4-year-old son and the fact that he was on three years of probation for drug distribution, he was not about to participate in anything that would get him arrested.

“If you don’t keep on good behavior when you’re on probation, you go to jail,” he said.

“What reason would you have to talk to Mr. Barnes?” Vallario asked.

“None,” the defendant replied.

“What possible reason would you have for physically assaulting him?” the lawyer asked.

“Absolutely none,” Holton said.

When Vallario asked why Jenkins would say he participated in the attack, Holton said, “she’s a liar.”

During closing arguments, Beattie stressed to the jury that the state’s witness, Iesha Jenkins, placed Holton at the house the night of the attack.

“If it happened, if he was there, and he’s engaging in it, he’s guilty of it,” Beattie said.
Vallario said Jenkins’ brothers beat Barnes up because, “they didn’t want this drunk old man sleeping with their sister.

“My client was not there. He did not have a dog in this fight,” the lawyer said.

The jury got the case just before lunchtime Tuesday.

Contact Joseph Norris at

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