IN COURT: Hutton pleads guilty to assault charges

IN COURT: Hutton pleads guilty to assault charges
Hannah Connaway (Source: Facebook)
Hannah Connaway (Source: Facebook)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Michael Hutton, charged in 2014 for brutally beating his girlfriend, Hannah Connaway, pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of assault inflicting serious bodily injury, assault on a female and assault by strangulation on day four of his trial.

Hutton received a sentence of 20 to 33 months in prison. He has already served 18 months in custody.

"We are stunned and shocked by the courts ruling. This community will be outraged," said Connaway's father of the outcome.

After a short recess Monday morning to review motions made by the defense team, the judge dismissed Hutton's first-degree attempted murder and kidnapping charges, but denied the dismissal of the assault inflicting serious bodily injury charge.

In the motion, Hutton's defense team claimed the state did not meet their burden of proof for the three charges -- first-degree attempted murder, kidnapping and inflicting serious bodily injury to her genital area -- and made a motion for the judge to dismiss them.

They also argued the state made a discovery violation by not including the opinion of one of their witnesses, sexual assault nurse Mistovich, to them before the trial began.

The state responded saying they had provided the defense attorneys with everything they were supposed to, and asked the judge to keep all of Hutton's charges.

Dr. Alsina, a neurosurgeon, testified Hannah Connaway's condition was "life threatening" so she was rushed into brain surgery when she got to the hospital.

According to Dr. Alsina, Hannah had a neck and head injury. Her brain had to be drained because of swelling.

Dr. Alsina said Hannah had "significant" motor deficits following surgery, but her condition improved over time.

Dr. Alsina also said she had a conversation with Hutton shortly after the incident. Hutton explained to him that there had been an "altercation" and "blows were thrown," between the two.

Court testimony revealed Hannah had a BAC level of .20 the night of the altercation.

Hannah's mother, Cindy, also took the stand Friday.

Cindy told the jury her daughter loved makeup, was an Azalea Belle, and never left the house without her hair done. She also said Hannah went to early college and wanted to be a mechanical engineer.

Cindy said her and her husband only met Hutton twice and were concerned over the fact that he never came to the house.

Cindy said it's been a long road to recovery for her daughter.

Since the attack, Hannah's had to learn how to walk and eat again. Cindy said Hannah does not remember much from that night.

Cindy has noticed considerable changes in her daughter.

"My daughter died that night in the hospital," said Cindy. "We brought home a new Hannah."

Hannah no longer cares about appearance. She is also "impulsive" and struggles with remembering things.

Colleen Mistovich, a sexual assault nurse examiner, examined Hannah while she was in the ICU. She found bruising to Hannah's inner thighs and injuries associated with blunt force trauma.

The last testimony Friday was Hannah Connaway herself. She emotionally entered the court room and took the stand. The prosecution asked her about three questions. She told the jury that she doesn't remember things like she used to, and her hope is to be an English professor.

When asked if she knew Michael Hutton, she began to cry, and Hutton started sobbing as well. Hannah she says she doesn't remember anything from the night of the attack.

Sunny Platt, a witness, was called to the stand Thursday.

Platt was a friend of Hannah's who received a call from the state's first witness, Claudene Williams, that she needed to come help Connaway. District Attorney Ben David played the 9-1-1 call Platt made once she arrived to Michael Hutton's Northwoods Drive home.

In the call, you could hear Platt say, "My friend is being hit by her boyfriend. I don't know if he's drunk. She's bleeding and on the ground."

Platt also told the operator she did not want to be involved in the situation. After being asked to explain her reasoning by assistant district attorney, Lillian Salcines Bright, Platt said she was afraid "Mike" Hutton would find out and she didn't know what he would do to her.

Two Wilmington Police officers who were at the scene, Lucas Gordon and Malcolm Cosby, were also called to testify. Gordon was the first to arrive at Hutton's home, and said Hutton approached him as he was walking up the driveway. Gordon testified Hutton was aggressive and argumentative, and told him, "Hannah came at me, so I had to put her down."

The state played video and audio from a dash camera in Gordon's patrol car. The officer activated it when he arrived at the home.

Our reporter was unable to see the video in court, but from the audio could hear Michael Hutton telling Officer Gordon, "Why is it the male gets arrested every time, when the female actually starts it...obviously she put her hands on me first and I restrained her."

Gordon stated that because Hutton was in such a "belligerent" state, he had to focus on him and was unable to check on Hannah. He says Hutton never inquired about her condition.

The second WPD officer, Malcolm Cosby, testified that when he arrived on scene, he could see bruises and scratches on Hannah's body as she lay in the driveway. Michael Hutton told him, "she drank a lot of alcohol, that's why she passed out."

When Officer Cosby placed Hutton under arrest, Hutton told him he had a bag of marijuana in his front pocket. Cosby found it and seized it.

Both officers said while they could tell Hutton had been drinking, he was coherent and aware of what was going on around him.

The prosecution also called Dr. Tracey Glendenning, an expert witness in optometric rehab, who cared for Hannah after the incident. She testified that Hannah's injuries were among the worst she's ever seen.

Glendenning said said her injuries showed clear signs of blunt force trauma to the head, which were worse that wounded warriors she has helped treat. Hannah's injuries were consistent with a large amount of blood loss, as well as bleeding inside the brain, Glendenning added.

Glendenning said Hannah's injuries severely affected her vision hypoxia, which is a lack of oxygen reaching tissue, so much that she didn't think she could fix it. Glendenning remarked, "She was a lot to deal with."

District Attorney Ben David followed up, asking if the damage is permanent. Glendenning answered, "Yes."

Glendenning said one of Hannah's eyes would not move because of the amount of blood loss she suffered. Glendenning recalled that it took a lot of work to get Hannah upright and walking again.

Glendenning said both of Hannah's eyes now move, but she will always have double vision. After treatment, Glendenning said she will be able to drive again, but will have trouble processing and may never be able to multi-task, or perform at a high level again

Hutton, who was 18 at the time of the May 2014 incident at his parent's house, is facing a first-degree attempted murder charge.

During the prosecution's opening statement on Wednesday, the assistant district attorney said Connaway, who was 17 at the time, and her friend Claudene Williams went to Hutton's house without telling Hannah's parents.

The three were reportedly drinking Sailor Jerry Rum, under-age, when an argument ensued between Hutton and Hannah.

According to the assistant district attorney, Hannah and Hutton got into a fight over some texts. Williams said Hutton was angry because of some tangled fishing lines.

Hannah wanted to leave, but followed Hutton inside when he became upset and began hitting himself.

Williams stayed outside, but heard what sounded like hitting, then she saw Hannah on the ground.

Williams tried to get inside to help Hannah, but Hutton made her leave and locked the door.

Williams ran to the front door where she could see Hannah bloody and lying on the ground, and Hutton standing over her, repeatedly hitting her.

Moments later, Williams said she saw Hannah running out of the house, bloody and screaming for help, with Hutton right behind her.

Williams said Hutton was yelling commands at her to "make her shut up or I'll put her to sleep." She said he then put his hands around her throat as if trying to strangle her.

Williams was able to call another friend from her cell phone, and when they arrived, Hutton threatened them to get off of his property. That friend was able to call 9-1-1.

When emergency responders arrived on scene they found Hannah unconscious in the front yard. She was immediately taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for emergency brain surgery, and Hutton was taken into custody.

Friends say Hannah has not been the same since the incident happened. Williams said Hannah takes more risks without considering the consequences of her actions.

Witnesses Andrew Platt and his sister Sunny Platt also took the stand Wednesday. Both went to high school with Hannah. Sunny and Hannah were considered best friends.

Andrew Platt said he, his sister and another friend drove to Hutton's house and saw Hannah lying in the yard unconscious when they arrived. He explained he tried to get to Hannah, but Hutton shoved him out of the way.

Sunny Platt said Hutton was "raging angry" and "looked evil to her."

The Platt siblings and their friend drove down the street to call 911.

According to the defense, Hutton was on a medication called Keppra at the time for seizures, while abusing alcohol and drugs. He was known, due to the alcohol and drug abuse, to often "black-out" and not remember hours at a time.

According to the Mayo Clinic's website, Keppra can cause side effects including aggression, anxiety and depression. The defense said Hutton was suffering from those side effects.

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