A jury on Thursday found a 52-year-old man guilty of threatening to kill his disabled and injured ex-girlfriend with a .22-caliber revolver last November.
The jury convicted Luther Norman Whaley of a single count of assault with a weapon, which has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Police arrested Whaley after responding Nov. 19 to a disturbance on the 300 block of Jackson Street on Billings’ South Side.
During closing arguments Thursday in the two-day trial, Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Juli M. Pierce showed the 12-person jury the .22-caliber Colt revolver police say was used in the assault.
The prosecutor told the jurors that Whaley held the gun and told his ex-girlfriend, “I’m going to put a hole in your head and burn your trailer down.”
The gun had one spent round and five live rounds in it when police found it, court records say.
Pierce also showed the jurors a bag of nearly 200 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition that police recovered along with the gun.
On Nov. 19, police spoke to residents on Jackson Street who said there had been a disturbance at a neighboring trailer, records say. Officers went to that trailer and spoke to the victim.
She told police she had come home and found Whaley drinking shots, which led to an argument.
After Whaley produced the gun and threatened her, the woman — who is disabled and was on supplemental oxygen and had a broken foot at the time of the assault — fled from the trailer, shoeless, court records say.
“This case is very simple, ladies and gentleman, the state has charged the defendant with assault with a weapon, and the state has
proven that case to you beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Pierce, who prosecuted the case with Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Nicholas Owens.
Whaley’s attorney, Michael Usleber, pointed out to the jury that his client’s fingerprints weren’t found on the gun, and that there were no eyewitnesses to the incident other than Whaley and the victim.
Usleber argued that the victim’s account of events should cast doubt on his client’s guilt — most notably that the woman never called police, and that she reportedly returned to the trailer after the incident.
“You have heard no other eye witnesses to this event, no eyewitnesses that indicate that there had been anything other than a loud disturbance, nothing to indicate that he was threatening to kill a woman, to burn her trailer,” Usleber said. “This, ladies and gentlemen, is a reasonable doubt.”
The jurors reached their verdict after deliberating about an hour and 15 minutes.
After the verdict was announced, Pierce told presiding Judge Gregory R. Todd that Whaley has at least five prior felonies, including two convictions for aggravated assault.
The judge ordered Whaley be taken back to jail, pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 14. Whaley remains in custody with bond set at $10,000.