A jury found defendant Felipe "Fel" Torres guilty Friday of one misdemeanor assault for a headbutt against his then-girlfriend earlier this year. However, the jury found the former drummer for Cold Hard Cash not guilty of felony strangulation, and the jury was hung on a second misdemeanor assault charge.
Torres and his attorney declined to comment after the hearing in Missoula County District Court. He has been released from custody under conditions imposed before trial, in which he is ordered not to have contact with his accuser or other witnesses who testified during the trial, which started Monday.
The jury had gone into deliberations around 11 a.m. Thursday and emerged at 2:30 Friday afternoon. The charges stem from three incidents, beginning in January, in which the woman said Torres had assaulted her at her workplace, headbutted her at their home, and then strangled her when she tried to leave him in July.
After more than a day of deliberations, the jury could not decide about the alleged workplace assault, in which the woman claimed Torres had tried clawing her from a friend's car in the parking lot. She had left the home where she was living with Torres and others to get away from him, she testified earlier this week.
But in his testimony, Torres said he went to the woman's workplace because he was concerned about her methamphetamine habit kicking up again. He also worried about her going into a psychotic episode brought on by her mental health disorder, which she spoke about in testimony.
The incident at her workplace was captured on surveillance footage, but law enforcement never followed up in retrieving it from the business.
Prosecutors brought as witnesses roommates living at the house at the time, some who said they tried to help the woman get out of the house and away from Torres. She had moved back into the home in April.
Despite a restraining order barring him from contacting her, the woman testified Torres soon reached out to her from an unknown number. She also testified this week that on July 10, they were arguing about his sexually-charged texts with another woman when he put his hands out, cocked his head back and headbutted her in the nose.
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A roommate, Savannah Anderson, took a picture of the split in her nose, which was presented to the jury.
The defense also brought a roommate who said she heard one altercation in which the woman appeared to be the aggressor. That woman would have been the defense's only witness, had Torres not decided at the last moment to testify.
He vehemently denied ever assaulting the woman in any way, and in one instance said it was the woman who headbutted him, rather than the other way around.
She also claimed he strangled her for less than 10 seconds while he was in a fit of anger about her packing her things to leave the house. Torres' public defender, Robin Hammond, pointed to a lack of physical evidence in the strangulation charge. Prosecutors brought an expert witness to testify that it was fairly common there would be no marks from a strangulation, especially one reported days after the alleged attack.
While Anderson also testified that she fled the house with the woman after the alleged strangling, no one in the house witnessed the encounter.
Torres said during testimony this week the charges had ruined his career as a drummer with The Cold Hard Cash Show, a Johnny Cash cover band that toured the country after an appearance on "The Late Show" with David Letterman. Within days of the charge, an anonymous document began circulating online spreading claims of past domestic violence. The band dissolved in February, less than a month after the January charge, because venues began canceling their tour dates, resulting in thousands of dollars in losses, he testified.
"It ruined my life, ruined my career," he said.
Also Friday, Judge Shane Vannatta set a status hearing for Nov. 7 to determine how to proceed with the first count of misdemeanor partner family member assault left undecided by the jurors. The hearing will also serve as a sentencing on the second count of partner family member assault, which carries a county jail term not more than one year or less than 24 hours. Because it is his first conviction for the charge, Torres could also be sentenced to misdemeanor probation.