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A 35-year-old Billings man is on trial after prosecutors say he threw a punch that landed the victim in the hospital, unconscious. They described the victim as being in a “vegetative state” and say that seven months later, he’s still not expected to recover.

Adam Michael Wilson maintains he punched 45-year-old Valdo Evans in self-defense, and that Evans threw the first punch.

“’He punched me square in the nose and I punched him back one time,’” said defense attorney Clark Mathews during opening arguments, quoting from his client’s statement to law enforcement.

Wilson’s trial began Monday in Yellowstone County District Court before Judge Rod Souza. It’s expected to conclude on Wednesday.

The incident took place around 3 a.m. on April 29 at the intersection of North 27th Street and Sixth Avenue North.

Evans was highly intoxicated at the time, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.348 — four times the legal limit for driving — and didn’t try to catch himself or break his fall, according to court filings and the driver passing by who witnessed the event and called 911.

The state opened witness testimony Monday with Nicole Anderson, the 911 caller who witnessed the event on her way home from her night shift as a nurse.

Anderson said Monday she saw Wilson stomp on Evans’ head after he punched him, but Mathews, the defense attorney, said video footage showed the stomp was to Evans’ chest and that an expert witness would testify it didn’t cause serious injury.

Anderson also said she saw Wilson push Evans before punching him, and that both men fell backward as a result. When they stood up, Wilson threw the punch that caused Evans to fall backward, hitting his head on the asphalt of North 27th.

Wilson and two women he was with who also witnessed the incident then pulled Evans by his feet and into a bank parking lot where they left him, attorneys for both sides said. The defense said it was meant to prevent Evans from being run over.

The two women involved were not scheduled to testify, according to Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Zachary Patten Ferreira. 

Wilson did not have a BAC test done for use in the case. 

Jurors were slated to see video footage of the encounter, although Patten Ferreira warned it was of poor quality.

Jurors were expected to hear from Wilson and from a former Montana medical examiner as defense witnesses.

The state was expected to call two detectives and three police officers who worked the case, as well as two medical professionals who treated Evans. 

Wilson is charged with aggravated assault, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. In the alternative, he’s charged with criminal endangerment, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Wilson has asserted a justifiable use of force defense, meaning the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not justified in using the force alleged, according to filings by defense attorney Joel Thompson.

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