Arthur, Reed, Zarnoch, Robert A. (Senior Judge, Specially
Harold Eugene Williams had an altercation with his
girlfriend, Angela Swan, after reading a series of text
messages between her and other men. An Anne Arundel County
jury convicted Williams of second-degree assault, but he was
acquitted of first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, a
number of weapons offenses, and posting revenge porn in
violation of Md. Code (2002, 2012 Repl. Vol., 2016 Supp.),
§ 3-809 of the Criminal Law Article.
Williams's timely appeal, he complains of the trial
court's admission of his prior conviction for battery on
cross-examination of his character witnesses and of the
court's response to a jury question. Finding no error or
abuse of discretion, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
and Swan were involved in an intimate relationship from 2012
to October of 2015. Although they did not live together, Swan
had a key to Williams's house, often stayed overnight,
and kept her belongings there. Swan testified that in the
last few months of their relationship they had argued
October 23, 2015, Swan stayed at Williams's house at his
request. The next morning, while Swan was in the bathroom,
wearing only a shirt, her cell phone started ringing.
was near her phone at the time. He noticed a text message
from a man whom Swan had denied knowing only days earlier.
Williams read the man's text messages, along with
messages from three other men. He saw that Swan had sent a
nude photograph to someone. Williams grabbed Swan's cell
phone and confronted her in the bathroom.
claimed that Williams called her a "bitch, "
accused her of cheating on him, shoved her against the
bathroom wall, threw her phone towards her, hit her upper
body, pushed her to the floor, and kicked her while she was
on the floor on her back, all the while demanding that she
leave. According to Swan, she said that she would leave, and
Williams backed away, but continued yelling at her. After a
few moments, she went upstairs to gather her clothes and
belongings. She claimed that Williams threw her pants down
the stairs and held a gun to her head while he was using her
phone to tell someone to come and get her before he killed
her. She also claimed that he pushed her down the stairs as
she begged him to let her leave. After Williams allegedly
pushed her into a closet and took her purse, she claimed that
she was able to escape, with a towel wrapped around herself,
and with some of his possessions (which she said she intended
to trade for hers). She said that she found her pants and
some of her belongings outside of the house.
the confrontation, Swan drove to a nearby convenience store
to call 911. She told the operator that Williams had attacked
her and held a gun to her head, but that she did not need
police officer arrived. He spoke to Swan, who was
"visibly upset, " "shaking, " and
"crying a lot." She told the officer that Williams
had physically assaulted her, pulled a gun on her, and pushed
her down the stairs. The officer requested emergency medical
services, but Swan refused treatment.
officer went to Williams's house and retrieved Swan's
phone. After he returned it to her, Swan received a call on
her cell phone from a friend. The friend told Swan to check
her Facebook account because nude photographs of her had been
posted on her Facebook page. The officer showed Swan how to
delete the posting.
in his own defense, Williams denied punching or kicking Swan
or threatening her with a gun. He claimed that after looking
at the information in her phone and discovering evidence of
her infidelity, including the nude picture that she had sent
to another man, he had ordered her out of his house. He
admitted that he had "tried to grab the towel" that
she had around her waist and that he "tried to push her
out the front door." Williams denied that he owned a
called Arkina Taylor, his former neighbor, as a character
witness. Taylor said she had known Williams for ten years and
that he was her "best friend." Taylor offered her
opinion that Williams was a "hard-working fun-loving guy
that just likes to have a good time." She testified that
he had a reputation in the community as being a
"[p]eaceful" person and that she had
"never" seen him with a firearm or become violent.
given the opportunity to cross-examine Taylor, the State
asked to approach the bench, and the following colloquy
[STATE]: . . . Now that she has said he's a peaceful
[STATE]: -- the State is entitled to rebut that by asking her
if she's aware that he has a prior conviction for
[COURT]: Uh-huh. I think you are, too. Do you want to say
anything about it?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: I do. I think that the State should not be
allowed to do that. If the State knew the specific facts of
what that battery is, they --
[COURT]: Well, why would that be, because I don't think
the State is allowed to get into the facts; all they're
allowed to do is ask that single question. Remember,
they're not allowed to say or ask for their --
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: I would think at this point, that
they're referring to a conviction back in 1990 and I
think it's certainly more prejudicial than probative and
I don't think the State should be allowed --
[STATE]: It is 1990, Your Honor.
[COURT]: 1990. If she's known him for 10 years --
[STATE]: But they're -- it's her best friend, so
it's very relevant if she [sic] ever told him if she is
aware of his prior convictions --
[STATE]: -- that he's a peaceful and non-violent man. I
mean it's completely relevant, Your Honor.
[THE COURT]: Uh-huh. I think it is, too.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: And I would just argue that this is a
conviction that ...