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Man Convicted in First Test of Federal Domestic Violence Law

May 24, 1995

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ When Christopher Bailey carried his battered, bloody wife into an emergency room, she had been locked in the trunk of his car for days while he drove around two states.

Investigators found a pool of blood and urine in the wheel well of the trunk. The lid of the trunk was dented from the inside and scratch marks were found around the lock.

Sonya Bailey is in a coma today. Her husband is in jail without bond, the first person convicted under the new federal domestic violence law.

``This sends a message that federal authorities are willing to step in and prosecute domestic violence where we can,″ said U.S. Attorney Rebecca Betts.

The Violence Against Women Act, passed in August as part of the 1994 crime bill, makes crossing a state line to assault a spouse or domestic partner a federal offense.

Bailey did not respond to reporters’ questions as he was led away in shackles shortly after the verdict Tuesday. He could get up to 20 years in prison under the new law and life behind bars for kidnapping at his sentencing Aug. 21.

Had Bailey been prosecuted under West Virginia laws, he would have faced a malicious wounding charge that carries up to 10 years in prison, state police Sgt. J.J. Dean said.

Bailey beat his 33-year-old wife unconscious Nov. 26, put her in the trunk and drove back and forth between West Virginia and Kentucky until Dec. 1, when he carried her into a Corbin, Ky., emergency room, prosecutors said.

Bailey’s lawyers insisted he was innocent because he was in an alcoholic blackout and never intended to harm his wife.

The nursing home handyman testified that he could only remember arguing with his wife in a bar in their hometown of St. Albans and waking up two days later in a place he didn’t recognize to find her severely injured in the back seat. He said he was seated behind the wheel of the car.

He testified that he drove around a few days before taking her to a hospital, because ``I thought I could get her better by myself.″ He said he went to a Kmart and bought bandages, hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic ointment for her wounds.

``I still believe, to this day, that the man could not receive a fair trial in this area,″ defense lawyer Gerard Kelley said after the verdict. ``The publicity vilified my client, made him a monster, when in fact he was really trying to help his wife.″

Advocates for victims of domestic abuse said prosecuting offenders under state laws is often difficult when the evidence doesn’t clearly show what occurred in which legal jurisdiction.

The jury deliberated for less than 2 1/2 hours after the week-long trial. Bailey showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Two of his daughters from a previous marriage broke down in tears.

Doctors don’t expect Mrs. Bailey to recover.

``What ever sentence he gets, it will never make up for what he did to Sonya,″ said Elena Campbell, the victim’s mother.

``I look at her and she smiles, but she smiles at everybody,″ Mrs. Campbell said. ``I don’t think she knows who I am, and that’s hard to take.″

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