VERSAILLES — After Christopher Schene, 21, Batesville, pleaded guilty to two counts of battery against a public safety official, Level 6 felonies, Jan. 14, his sentencing hearing was Feb. 11 in Ripley Superior Court.
Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel first called Franklin County Sheriff‘s Department Deputy Arin Bowers to testify.
Bowers reported his first encounter with the defendant was in October 2018 when he responded to an accident just outside Oldenburg. "There was a jeep flipped over in somebody's front yard." The driver, Schene, was intoxicated and "became aggressive, ... pulling away as we tried to handcuff him."
On March 8, 2019, FCSD received a call. Somebody was attempting to break into a home on Chapel Road in northwest Franklin County. "When I arrived, I recognized Mr. Schene. ... Residents of the home didn't want to press charges for criminal mischief or residential entry," but the three-year deputy decided to transport the impaired 20-year-old to the hospital. "We believed he was a danger to himself that evening."
"He had become aggressive before I got him in the car ... he was yelling in the back and slamming his head against the window." Bowers called ahead to ask Batesville Police Department officers to assist at Margaret Mary Health.
Hertel questioned, "Was Mr. Schene compliant with you" at the hospital? No, he needed to be physically removed from the patrol car with the assistance of Patrolmen Brent Wesseler and Travis Cook.
In emergency room No. 4 the young man was handcuffed because "he posed a threat to himself and to us." Bowers explained that after Schene lost consciousness, he freed his hands from the cuffs behind his back and cuffed the hands to bedrails instead.
The prosecutor wondered, "Was he unconscious in your estimation due to his level of intoxication ... or some other reason? Impairment of some sort?"
Bowers responded that the hospital staff used a Narcan like substance to revive Schene.
Hertel asked, "Was he much more compliant and agreeable?" According to the deputy, he "immediately became combative, worse than before."
The prosecutor asked about the batteries. Bowers noted, "There were multiple times he struck out or grabbed at my hands ... he headbutted me in the nose when being placed in the vehicle to go to the Franklin County Security Center." Bowers did not seek medical treatment for that injury.
While at the ER, a physician and four or five nurses, two pregnant, treated Schene. Hertel quizzed, "Did you have any concerns about the doctor or nurses' safety?" When staff were checking his vitals and drawing blood, the defendant "lashed out at them when they walked by."
"Did you ever hear Mr. Schene say anything that caused you concern for your safety" or others? Bowers recounted, "Many times he stated he guaranteed somebody was going to die. He also indicated he would place a knife through my heart." The deputy admitted he was scared.
Bowers told Judge Jeffrey Sharp, "My concern with Mr. Schene is he's very young. He's got a lot of life ahead of him. The violent tendencies he's shown ... every time he's intoxicated .. we're concerned he could potentially harm someone else ... he likes to fight every time he's intoxicated ... he could get himself injured or killed," perhaps in a vehicle crash.
Defense attorney Delmar Weldon III, Lawrenceburg, asked Bowers, "Are you aware of an apology letter Mr. Schene sent to the Batesville Police Department?" The deputy said, "Yes, he had discovered the importance of law enforcement and apologized for his past actions."
Bowers did not get a letter, Hertel confirmed.
Then Cook took the witness stand. The former Marine said he was familiar with Schene through "multiple prior law enforcement interactions and also years back his father dated my mother. I probably saw him less than a handful of times."
The five-year officer recalled traffic stops, and also being called to a house because the defendant was outside, refusing to leave, and police had to order him away. The juvenile was not arrested during those incidents.
When the prosecutor asked, Cook recalled that over half of Batesville police had encounters with the male. Hertel asked him to tell the judge the range of interactions and run-ins. Weldon objected, noting incidents were listed in the presentence investigation report.
The judge allowed the testimony. According to Cook, situations ranged from suspicious activity and traffic stops to being unruly when he's drinking, running from police on foot, marijuana and resisting. Officers located a knife in one of those instances.
Sharp said, "The court will give the proper weight to incidents that don't result in arrests."
Cook reported when they got to the ER, Schene smelled of alcohol and had glassy eyes. When he nodded off, the patrolman checked for a pulse. After Schene became conscious, he agreed with Bowers that the man's behavior became worse.
Then Cook made a decision: "I had my cellphone on me. I had never dealt with someone this belligerent before. ... I felt no one would believe us unless they heard it themselves." The officer made a one-hour audio recording of the incident.
Hertel asked for a small excerpt to be played after Cook verified the recording was authentic.
Schene's attorney objected. "I find it unusual there would be a recording on a cellphone rather than an official piece of equipment." The judge reminded Weldon evidence is relaxed during a sentencing hearing and he allowed the recording to be heard.
"Knock it off," an officer told Schene, who responded, "I have not done anything wrong to you." Amid profanity and with his voice level escalating, the defendant said, "I'm going to kill you." Then he called a nurse a derogatory term while she tried to draw blood.
"Lay still," encouraged an officer. Schene said loudly, "Stop, stop." After screaming and crying was heard, he said, "It hurts so bad."
Schene repeated, "I haven't done anything." A police officer replied, "You've done plenty."
When asked about the young man's demeanor at MMH, Cook reported, "It would go up and down. Whenever he would look at Patrolman Wesseler, he would start crying," but was aggressive with the other two. "I had to back up once because I thought he was going to kick me in the crotch."
Hertel invited the witness to make a final statement. Cook said, "I would love to see him go in the right direction ... I don't see that happening yet. My biggest concern is when he does get released, he's going to harm himself if not others." That night the possibility of a nurse losing a baby was a real worry.
Weldon suggested that because of the past relationship of their parents, Cook should not have assisted with Schene at the hospital. The patrolman explained, "We didn't have another officer on duty that night."
The attorney theorized that Narcan can cause patients to be violent. Cook said he has administered the antidote before, but hasn't observed violent behavior in others.
The defense attorney called Schene's mother, Rebecca Craft, Batesville, to testify. He asked how the audio recording made her feel. "I wanted to reach out and help him. He's begging, 'please stop.'"
The attorney pointed out this was not the first time Craft had seen her son in a courtroom. "Christopher has had at least four prior misdemeanor convictions and three probation violations," some involving alcohol and marijuana. She agreed, "This behavior needs to stop."
Weldon asked about the steps she has taken to help her son get back on track. The family got him into Tara Treatment Center, Franklin. After he graduated from the 30-day inpatient program, Schene attended intensive outpatient program classes at Community Mental Health Center, Batesville, and was going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
"What were your observations of him" after returning from Tara? the attorney asked. Craft answered, "A better attitude, more upbeat, optimistic." Schene was leading AA meetings, which was "kind of outside of his comfort zone to get up in front of people."
Schene mostly lived with his mom in Batesville until he graduated from Batesville High School, then went back and forth between that home and his dad's in Shelbyville.
Weldon asked her, "Was Christopher doing any community service programs?" He started volunteering at the Ripley County animal shelter, according to her.
He had more questions. "How have Christopher's bad decisions affected his sister?" Craft responded, "She's devastated. She has been away from him" for the first time. "He's been her protector, always there for her." Her youngest child, 6, "keeps wondering where his brother is," she said, tearing up.
The defense attorney showed several photos, including one of the family and another of Schene, who had a big wrestling victory on senior night. Other exhibits: his BHS diploma, an employer statement saying he'll have a job when he is free and a varsity letter B for lettering in football three times and wrestling four times.
Statements from Schene's siblings were read by his mother. The 17-year-old wrote, "Christopher is a good person. He is my best friend ... He is somebody people can count on ... very thoughtful and goes out of his way to do nice things for others. I want him to be able to see me graduate more than anything."
The youngest son wrote, "I like to wrestle with him... I hope he comes home soon. I love him."
Craft summed up that the defendant "has a lot of support from the entire family. He really is a good kid. He's always been respectful and very thankful for everything he's had." After high school without his sports routines, "he made some bad choices. He drank when he shouldn't have."
Schene's grandfather, Dennis Craft, testified that the recording "kind of broke my heart." He described Schene as "intelligent, polite, courteous." The attorney asked, "With the right path, what kind of man could Christopher become?" "A good man ... a good husband and father. He's just gotta grow up."
It was time for Christopher Schene, who had spent over five months in the Ripley County Jail, Versailles, to speak from the defense table. Weldon questioned him on how the recording and officers' testimony made the defendant feel. He replied, "Absolutely embarrassed, disgusted even. That's not who I am." He felt ashamed.
Schene said he was dismayed he let his family and the community down.
"I don't want to be known as that drunk, crazy guy." He admitted his behavior with the officers was "100% my fault." Schene promised to make life changes. "I plan on getting the help that I need ... and getting involved in the community, staying busy working, helping my family.
"Doing the next right thing one day at a time."
The defendant recounted that in jail he had a strict routine, exercising two hours a day and attending AA meetings. Rehab "was really life changing, to meet so many great people and hear their stories." The experience made him realize "I'm not alone ... I can change. I can have a great life without drugs or alcohol. I can be sober and have a good life and be a good person."
He has attended AA meetings at MMH, Oldenburg, Greensburg and Shelbyville.
Schene got emotional when speaking about his grandpa, "one of the greatest guys I've ever met. Family is everything to me ... I want to become someone they can be proud of."
The man wants to get a Commercial Driver's License to advance at his job.
Looking past Hertel at the two officers seated at the adjacent table, Schene said, "I want to apologize for that night. I'm sincerely sorry for past run-ins. There will be no more," he vowed.
Schene said he does not remember anything about that night and did not intend to hurt anyone.
Hertel pointed out the defendant said he wasn't drinking when he shoved his dad last August. "The violent tendencies were still there."
"You went from misdemeanors to felonies ... You've had run-ins with multiple police officers and family members."
Those were 99% alcohol related, Schene clarified.
Hertel said the two officers are used to dealing with unruly persons, one of the job hazards. "Being battered by somebody is probably not what they signed up for."
The prosecutor said the judge should consider Schene's criminal history as an aggravating factor. "He's had a history of violating probation. Nothing seems to work. The state believes an appropriate sentence would be two years on each count, served consecutively."
The defense attorney reminded that one condition of the plea agreement was that probation violations be terminated.
Weldon reported, "He is working on correcting those decisions very hard. I believe he is worth saving ... he does deserve the opportunity to prove he can ... and will fix this."
Sharp reflected, "No matter what happens today, he's going to be released into the community. The question is how do we save Mr. Schene?"
After considering the defendant's criminal history and listening to the tape, he told Schene, "You are responsible for your actions. You don't get a free pass because 'I'm high' or 'I'm drunk.' ... it shouldn't work that way."
He pointed out the public would have zero confidence in the court system if people aren't held accountable for their actions.
"I count seven arrests in less than two years," the judge noted. An aggravating factor: "We had a situation that could have been worse" if a pregnant nurse had been injured. "The last thing sick people need at a hospital is having to deal with these types of situations."
The judge listed two mitigating factors, his guilty plea and strong family support.
Sharp sentenced the defendant to 545 days on each count to be served consecutively with no time suspended. He announced Schene already had served 163 days in jail, which equates to 326 days of good-time credit. The defense attorney requested that the judge count 12 days Schene was incarcerated in the Shelby County Jail, which brought the good-time credit total to 350 days.
After doing the math, Schene will be incarcerated for 740 days or about two years, which could change depending on how he behaves there.
The judge told the defendant, "Good luck to you."
Schene's change of plea hearing is set for Feb. 24 in Shelby Superior Court 2. He is charged with domestic battery, a Class A misdemeanor, after the incident with his father.
He also is scheduled for an April 29 jury trial overseen by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Clay Kellerman for the two misdemeanors that brought him to Margaret Mary Health for evaluation, resisting law enforcement and illegal consumption of an alcoholic beverage.