Former deputy Matt Ainsworth found guilty of assaults
Published 4:58 pm Thursday, May 7, 2015
A Carter County jury took less than an hour to convict a former deputy of assaulting his ex-girlfriend and her neighbor.
The jury found Matt Ainsworth, 27, of Elizabethton, guilty of one count of aggravated assault by strangulation on his ex-girlfriend Susan Olive and guilty of one count of aggravated assault by serious bodily injury on Dennis Bennett. Ainsworth was a deputy at the Carter County Sheriff’s department at the time of the attacks.
Jurors heard testimony from several witnesses Wednesday, including Olive, Bennett and Ainsworth, who took the stand in his own defense.
On the morning of Oct. 6, 2013, Olive said she was awakened by Ainsworth beating on her front door. Ainsworth barged into her apartment, pushed her to the floor and began hitting and choking her, she said. Sometime later, Olive said she was able to get away and ran to Bennett’s home for help.
While his wife, Tina Bennett, stood with Olive, Dennis Bennett said he went to the parking lot to get the tag number for Ainsworth’s vehicle and was jumped from behind and knocked unconscious.
Both Tina Bennett and Olive told the jury they saw Ainsworth hitting Dennis Bennett while Bennett lay facedown on the ground.
During his testimony, Ainsworth denied hitting Olive but admitted he hit Dennis Bennett twice in self defense.
While at Olive’s apartment that morning, Ainsworth said the two of them had argued and she walked outside and headed toward the Bennetts’ home. At that time, Ainsworth said he tried to leave but Bennett stopped him.
When he got out of the truck to tell Dennis Bennett to move, Ainsworth said the man came at him with clinched fists. “So I hit him before he could hit me,” he said.
When the trial resumed Thursday, jurors heard from just one more witness, Kristopher Yarber, a friend of Ainsworth.
On Oct. 5, the night before Olive and Bennett were assaulted, Yarber, Ainsworth and several others were at a party at the home of a friend and had been drinking, Yarber said.
During the course of that evening, Yarber said Ainsworth and Olive spoke on the phone but that he saw no indications Ainsworth was angry. Yarber said he would have known if his friend had been upset.
After Yarber’s testimony, the defense rested its case and the attorneys presented their closing arguments to the jury.
In his argument to the jury, Assistant District Attorney Ryan Curtis pointed out inconsistencies between statements Ainsworth made to investigators and the testimony he provided in court.
While calling the credibility of Ainsworth into question, Curtis also brought up the credibility of Olive.
During Wednesday’s testimony, Olive said in July 2013 Ainsworth had assaulted her and she sought medical treatment, but told doctor’s she had been in a four-wheeler accident. Under cross examination by Ainsworth’s attorney Jim Bowman, Olive said she had been too scared to tell the doctors the truth about how she suffered her injuries.
“She admitted to Mr. Bowman she lied,” Curtis said. “She lied about being beaten.”
“Mr. Bowman questioned her as if battered women didn’t exist.”
As part of his closing statements, Bowman also referred to Olive’s testimony that Ainsworth had assaulted her multiple times.
“It’s just convenient to come in now and say ‘He’s a monster. I’m going to bolster my testimony that he beat me up on this occasion by saying he beat me up so many other times I can’t recall all the incidents,’” Bowman said.
At 12:50 p.m. on Thursday, the jury of four women and eight men retired to deliberate the case. In less than an hour the group sent out word they had reached a verdict.
In addition to finding Ainsworth guilty on two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony, the jury also set a fine of $10,000 on each count. A sentencing hearing for Ainsworth will be held on July 10.