Abbott sentenced to 8 years
Saturday, March 15, 2014 5:00 AM
Former Madison Police Department Patrolman Josh A. Abbott was sentenced to eight years in prison Friday for domestic violence crimes he committed while off duty over the course of three months.
Special Judge Roger Duvall said former Madison Patrolman Josh Abbott (left) clearly has a “volatile, unstable personality,” and he would need rehabilitation that could only be provided by the Department of Correction.
Abbott, 33, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of intimidation, a Class C felony; one count of criminal confinement; a Class C felony; and domestic battery, a Class A misdemeanor.
Special Judge Roger Duvall sentenced Abbott to the maximum allowed all four charges, which will run at the same time for a total of eight years.
He also ordered Abbott to undergo a psychological evaluation during his time in prison and that a no-contact order remain in effect between Abbott, the victim and his two children. One of the children is with the victim, and the other is with his ex-wife. Both were present during the latest assault.
Abbott was arrested in February for grabbing his girlfriend and pointing a gun at her and threatening to kill her.
During their investigation, state police found that was not the first time Abbott had assaulted the woman, and that she had recorded previous incidents.
During an attack on Dec. 14, 2013, the victim was able to record a portion of the incident on her cell phone. That recording was played in court.
The incident began when the woman went through Abbott's phone and saw that he had been texting other women.
The recording is more than 30 minutes long, and contains an expletive-laced rant by Abbott, crying by the victim and verbal assaults by both. At one point, the victim tells Abbott to punch her.
"If I do, you'll die. I know how hard I can hit," he responds.
Later in the recording, he said, "I'm going to get a ... gun and you're a dead ...." At that point, there are a few seconds of silence, followed by the sound of Abbott cocking a handgun. The victim can be heard yelling for Abbott to stop.
"You pushed me to this ... limit. You have been ... pushing me to this limit," Abbott said.
He later tells the victim that if she left and took his children, he would find and shoot her.
Abbott also blamed the victim for being the reason he lost his wife, his car and almost lost his job in 2010.
Abbott grabbed the woman at one point during the altercation.
"Get your hands off me!" the victim can be heard screaming. "You arrest people for that every day. It's not OK."
The victim makes several references to being choked and several references to Abbott having pointed a gun at her and threatening to kill her.
Duvall said Abbott clearly has a "volatile, unstable personality," and he would need rehabilitation that could only be provided by the Department of Correction.
Despite a pre-sentence investigation report that indicated Abbott was unlikely to commit another offense, Duvall said he believed Abbott would likely seek out the victim and try to retaliate.
The mothers of Abbott's two children wrote to the court requesting he not be a part of their lives for a while, until he can receive counseling and possibly serve some time in prison.
"They are fearful for retaliation," said Prosecutor Chad Lewis.
One of the biggest factors in the long sentence was jail phone conversations between Abbott and his mother that were recorded.
Prosecutors introduced two phone calls into evidence, during which Abbott tells his mother to act like a "boa constrictor" with the victim.
Operation: Boa Constrictor, as prosecutors referred to it, was a push by Abbott and his mother to get the victim to recant her statements to police and drop the charges.
In one call, Abbott suggests his mother should shut off the electricity and Internet to his house as a way to get her to recant.
Abbott also seemed to indicate that he wanted his mother to take more drastic steps to get the charges to go away.
"She's the key. It would be hard for the State to proceed without her. You've got to do what you've got to do. You've got to shut her down," Abbott says in the call.
Duvall said the jail calls were either "evidence of arrogance or evidence of stupidity" on Abbott's behalf.
"You basically took away your attorney's ability to defend you," Duvall said of the calls.
Det. Kip Main with the Indiana State Police, who investigated the case, said the victim was fearful for her life and felt as though Abbott would kill her.
"She expressed concerns of her physical safety if Josh were to be released from jail," Main said.
Murielle Bright, Abbott's attorney, suggested that the victim had an elaborate scheme against Abbott because she had the foresight to record the event on tape.
"It appears to be a series of multiple events that have taken place. And she's taken steps to document this," he said. "I believe that's very typical of someone who's been in a domestic situation."
Dottie Davis, a former police officer who specializes in domestic violence training, reviewed statements and a questionnaire the victim filled out after Abbott was arrested.
Davis said she believed the victim was at a high risk of being a domestic violence homicide victim.
Duvall said this case easily could have ended with the victim or one of the children dead.
"While this may seem ridiculous ... you are very, very fortunate to be here under these circumstances," Duvall said.
What made it far more worrisome for Davis was the fact that Abbott was a police officer. She said officer-involved domestic violence is often "more lethal" because they know where to hit or attack someone without leaving any bruises or indicators.
In addition, the penalties for domestic violence can be career-ending for police officers. When someone is convicted of domestic battery, he or she loses the right to possession or own a firearm or ammunition, which would make it difficult to remain a police officer.
"A police officer who stands accused has a lot to lose," Davis said.
Throughout his testimony, Abbott pinned the blame and the responsibility for him being behind bars on the victim. He did not take responsibility or apologize for his actions.
Abbott said there were daily arguments between himself and the victim, and they would often get into physical altercations. She was often the aggressor in those situations, he said.
The evidence presented on the recording was "humiliating," Abbott said.
As of Friday, Abbott had spent 40 days in jail, all in isolation because he was a police officer and other inmates taunted him.
"That first week was horrible," Abbott said.
Bright said Abbott is being punished for the service he provided to the community by being a police officer because he has to be placed in isolation for his own safety.
"Mr. Abbott has already been punished enough for his actions," she said.
Prosecutor Lewis said he could not believe that Abbott was playing the victim card, and felt that meant he had showed absolutely no remorse for what he had done.
"Throughout his testimony here, it's clear to see he's trying to blame (the victim) for everything," Lewis said. "At no point does he apologize. What he's doing here is blaming the victim."
Duvall agreed with Lewis.
"Based on your behavior, based on your attitude, you felt like your girlfriend was the one on trial here," Duvall said.
Abbott testified that he had been applauded for his police work and that his record as an officer had "no blemishes on it."
But the blemishes on his record were the reason he almost got fired in 2010. Among those allegations - a majority of which Abbott disagreed about having happened or denied:
Jan. 1, 2010: Abbott had an argument with his wife about the victim, whom Abbott said he had been seeing since 2008.
March 17, 2010: Abbott tried to convince a fellow officer to tear up a ticket issued to the victim.
March 23, 2010: Several reports were made of Abbott visiting the victim's apartment while on duty. Abbott said Friday he had gone there, but only because she was pregnant at the time.
April 12, 2010: Superior officers reprimanded Abbott regarding an incident where he drove through an apartment complex parking lot in a reckless manner while chasing the victim's vehicle.
April 26, 2010: The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department investigated a battery between Abbott and the victim, where Abbott was the alleged victim. He later contacted the sheriff's department and requested charges be dropped.
During the sentencing hearing, Abbott claimed he never grabbed the woman.
May 9, 2010: While arguing with his wife, Abbott punched a wall, injuring his hand. His hand required surgery, and he was suspended without pay for five days as a result of the incident.
May 28, 2010: While on medical leave, Abbott was involved in an argument at a bar with his wife.
June 17, 2010: Abbott and the victim were in an argument at Walmart.
June 29, 2010: Abbott and the victim were in an argument in the Walmart parking lot and Abbott grabbed her arm as she tried to leave his vehicle. Abbott followed her into the store and began threatening and insulting the woman, ignoring superior officers during the incident.
He was suspended for six months without pay and nearly fired as a result of that incident.
Sept. 9, 2010, and Oct. 8, 2010: Abbott and a friend had been drinking in Louisville when they were on their way back to Madison and stopped by Charlestown police. Though Abbott was not driving, prosecutors said a police report from Charlestown indicated that Abbott flashed his badge in an attempt to get out of charges.
Feb. 8, 2013: Abbott punched a vehicle after a fight with the victim. Abbott said he never punched a car, but fell while carrying his daughter.
Abbott resigned from the department on March 6, more than a week after he pleaded guilty to the four charges.
MPD Police Chief Dan Thurston planned on bringing charges against Abbott after the latest incident, which Abbott planned on contending before eventually deciding to plead guilty.
Lewis requested the judge sentence Abbott to six years in prison followed by one year on community corrections.
Lewis said a factor in his sentencing recommendation was that Abbott was a police officer.
"This is somebody that should know better," Lewis said.
Officers take an oath to uphold the prestige and honor of the system, and should be held to a higher standard than everyone else, Lewis said.
Abbott's actions gave the police department and the court system a black eye, Lewis said. The prosecutor's office dropped dozens of cases Abbott had been involved in immediately after his arrest.
His actions were a "slap in the face to the community," he said.
The plea agreement contains a provision that Abbott cannot appeal the appropriateness of his sentence.