A Beatrice man will serve four years on probation for what a district court judge described as habitually stalking a female victim.
Justis D. Barnhouse, 22, was sentenced Wednesday in Gage County District Court for the April incident, in which he was convicted of kicking in an apartment door and hitting men he believed were involved with his former girlfriend.
District Court Judge Rick Schreiner indicated the programs Barnhouse will be required to participate in as part of probation can be more helpful than a prison sentence, but stressed that Barnhouse needs to leave the victim in the case alone.
“The fact that you have a child together does not mark her as your territory for the rest of your life and her life,” Schreiner said. “You need to leave her alone. You are extremely jealous and extremely controlling. You can’t control her anymore.”
The victim reported to police that Barnhouse broke in through the front door earlier this year.
Officers entered the residence, and found Barnhouse standing over a victim, who was on the ground crying. Scratches and redness were observed on the victim's leg, according to Gage County Court documents.
Another victim had blood on their nose, and court documents list five victims involved.
Barnhouse broke through the front door while the victim was talking with dispatchers, court documents state.
He assaulted three people, punching two in the face. One victim reported being punched in the face up to six times, according to court documents.
He was sentenced for five counts, including third-degree domestic assault, criminal mischief, first-degree criminal trespassing and two counts third-degree assault. All the charges were misdemeanors after the single felony count was reduced as part of a plea agreement.
The plea agreement also stated prosecutors would recommend probation at the time of sentencing, though deputy county attorney Calynn Schuck instead asked for a prison sentence. She said Barnhouse had committed four additional violations since the plea agreement, including contact made with the victim.
She said he directly defied court orders and has a history of domestic assaults.
Schuck cited a statement from the victim that outlined examples of control Barnhouse has held over the victim.
“She also discusses how Mr. Barnhouse monitors her Facebook, Snapchat and other social media,” Schuck said. “Due to Mr. Barnhouse’s actions, she has actually lost friends and her family fears for her life because of how controlling he is, and they’re not even in a relationship other than they have a child together. No person should be allowed to affect another person’s life like this.”
Defense Attorney Lee Timan countered that Barnhouse took responsibility for his actions, as demonstrated by pleading guilty to four of the five charges.
He pleaded no contest to the third-degree domestic assault charge because he disputed an assault took place against the female.
“He was there basically to get involved in a fight with the other individuals because he had concerns about what they were doing,” Timan said. “It’s his position that (the victim) jumped on him to stop him from going after them and either he shrugged her off or she fell off while trying to jump on him.”
Timan added that none of the victims sustained major injuries as a result of the incident.
“The fact is this case is only in district court because it started off with one count felony domestic assault,” Timan said. “That was the major charge of contention. There was no dispute as to him assaulting the other individuals or kicking the door in. He’s never disputed that in any way. He admitted that to law enforcement.”
In addition to the four years of probation, Barnhouse will serve 90 days in jail, and pay a $250 fine. He was also ordered to pay $600 restitution for the damaged door.