Spring Lake Park man guilty of beating girlfriend, but not attempted murder

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 4, 2014 - 9:48 PM

Changing stories told by victim may have led to split in verdicts.

The Anoka County jurors watched a surveillance video of Benjamin Adams choking, punching and kicking his girlfriend. They heard Adams say to her, “I’m killing you.”

But they also heard the 25-year-old victim all but confess to lying to police and hospital officials after she was assaulted. That conflicting testimony may have been enough Wednesday for the jury to acquit Adams of both counts of first-degree attempted murder, by far the most serious of seven counts against him.

Adams was convicted of kidnapping, second- and third-degree assault, domestic assault and making terroristic threats.

The jury, which deliberated for nearly five hours, was ordered by Judge Dyanna Street to return to the courtroom Thursday morning to determine whether there are additional aggravating factors that should be considered when Adams is sentenced. Had Adams been convicted of either attempted-murder charge, he could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

While the attempted-murder verdict could be considered a victory for Adams, the range of penalty for kidnapping is extreme — between 41 months and 40 years. Adams was found guilty of refusing to release the victim and holding her with the use of a deadly weapon, a scissors.

Clearly a brutal assault

There was no question that Adams, 40, had assaulted the woman, and his attorneys said as much in their opening statement and closing arguments. But was it first-degree attempted murder or a “brutal, prolonged domestic assault,” as defense attorney Bill Robyt described it Wednesday?

Adams’ tumultuous five-year on-again, off-again relationship with the woman had evolved into a case of jealous obsession by the time their connection exploded into violence in October in Adams’ Spring Lake Park apartment. Much of their ordeal that night was captured by a surveillance camera that Adams and the woman had installed themselves long before the incident, Robyt told the jury.

Adams was convinced that the woman had been seeing other men. He tried to follow her every move through a spyware app in her cellphone, by surveillance cameras and through a GPS system, she testified. On Oct. 21, after the two had gone shopping, had dinner at the apartment and had sex, Adams hovered over his computer to trace the woman’s recent whereabouts.

Things soon exploded into violence.

‘What did you see?’

“What did you see in the video?” prosecutor Brenda Sund asked Wednesday, in her closing remarks to the jury.

Sund quoted Adams as saying: “You’re going to find out this is no [expletive] joke. I’m going to prison. You’re going to the [expletive] grave.”

Sund also reminded jurors, some of whom struggled to watch the graphic video when it was first shown, that, at one point, Adams screamed at the woman, “I’m going to [expletive] slice your throat.”

The jury also heard the woman testify last week that she slit her own wrist with a razor — rather than suffer any more physical and emotional anguish from Adams, who jurors watched hit the woman repeatedly, breaking her nose.

But the woman told police and medical officials a different story the night of the incident. She told them that Adams was the one who twice slashed her wrist. And she stayed with that story for several months, Robyt told the jury.

“The camera does not lie, but [the victim] sure does,” Robyt said.

Robyt also disputed the notion that Adams beat the woman’s head with the blunt end of an upholstery shears, saying that the couple were always out of camera range when it allegedly happened. He said the victim had no apparent bruises or fractures on her head and that sheriff’s deputies neglected to gather DNA evidence from the chrome scissors.

“Don’t let them make this into something that it is not,” Robyt said of the first-degree attempted-murder charges. “He didn’t intend to kill anybody.”

Sund told the jury otherwise.

“What Mr. Adams did was crazy?” she asked, repeated a comment Robyt had made minutes before. “No, it was criminal.”

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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