Jury finds local man guilty of one felony, acquits him of another

Hunter Herbaugh Ranger-review Staff Writer
Sunday, May 22, 2022
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Paul Walter Hall

A local man was acquitted of one felony and convicted of another and an additional misdemeanor charge after a short trial this week. Paul Walter Hall stood trial on Wednesday on the counts of Partner/Family Member Assault, a felony; tampering with a witness, a felony; and obstructing a peace officer, a misdemeanor.

The trial started Wednesday and ended later in the day, with the jury returning a verdict at around 4:30 p.m. that afternoon. Hall was found not guilty on the count of PFMA but was found guilty on the other two counts.

According to court documents, the charges stem from an incident on or about Nov. 16, 2021 when Glendive Police Department Officer Renn Ewalt received a report of possible PFMA from Youth Dynamics in Glendive. When he arrived at Youth Dynamics, he met with Amber Copenhaver, the complainant, who reported being physically assaulted by Hall, her boyfriend at the time, at their residence in Dawson County earlier that day.

Ewalt determined the complaint was out of his jurisdiction and turned it over to the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies Brett Patterson and John Spurgeon spoke with Copenhaver later that day but could not find Hall at the time.

In her testimony, Copenhaver said the assault occurred after she received several text messages from an ex-boyfriend whom she shared a child with, adding that Hall grew angry at the communication. This grew into an argument where she attempted to leave the residence, but said Hall forcibly stopped her from doing so. She eventually was able to leave to an appointment at Youth Dynamics, where she said a staff member called the police on her behalf after seeing bruises on her arm.

Through the course of the investigation, Copenhaver showed law enforcement multiple messages Hall had sent her, saying he was sorry and “(he) wasn’t trying to hurt (her).” Copenhaver also said a neighbor’s security cameras may have caught the altercation, as it occurred partly outside.

When officers spoke with the neighbor, they learned that Hall had also contacted him that day, requesting that he delete the video footage, which he did not do. Patterson observed the video but due to poor quality, concluded there was no evidentiary value in it.

Following a second interview with Copenhaver on Nov. 18, Spurgeon received a call from Hall inquiring as to what was going on. At that time, Spurgeon informed him of the investigation and said law enforcement needed to speak with him in-person. Hall informed Spurgeon at that time that he was already on his way to Billings with a friend named “Stephanie” to visit a dying friend.

However, witness testimony from Virgina May contradicted this. May testified that when Hall called law enforcement, Hall was with her in her vehicle in Glendive and the two at no point left town.

Later that evening, May testified that she tried to get Patterson to pull her over when she saw him driving, which he did. During the traffic stop, Patterson and Spurgeon confronted Hall about his saying he was travelling to Billings. At that time, Hall complained of chest pain and requested to be taken to the hospital.

May, a certified nursing assistant, testified during the trial that in her professional opinion, Hall was faking the chest pain, as he had shown no prior signs of medical concerns prior to the traffic stop.

Due to limited resources, Patterson said that officers could not wait at the hospital for Hall to be discharged and instructed him to contact them when he was released, which he did not do.

On Nov. 19, officers received a call from Travis Loy, a Miles City resident and former associate of Hall’s, reporting that Hall was in Miles City. In his testimony at trial, Loy said Hall came to him looking for money so that he could go to Las Vegas. Hall was later arrested in Miles City on a warrant.

The defense called no witnesses of their own but in cross examination, questioned Copenhaver’s characterization of the events on Nov. 16 as an assault. At certain points in her testimony, Copenhaver said she feared for her life after the alleged assault occured and on at least two occasions before reporting it, said she was left alone in a running vehicle. If this was true and she really feared for her life, the defense questioned why she didn’t take the opportunity to run away.

The defense also called into question law enforcement’s decision to charge Hall with obstructing a peace officer. Spurgeon testified that he was charged with obstruction due to his lying. However the defense argued that under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Hall was not required to speak with law enforcement at all, so even though he lied, it shouldn’t be considered obstruction.

Spurgeon answered that Hall spoke to law enforcement voluntary and chose to lie, resulting in delays in their investigation.

Ultimately, the jury returned with the verdict of not guilty on the count of PFMA, but guilty on the accounts of witness tampering and obstruction.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.