A Calhoun County judge on Thursday ruled that a 29-year-old man was not guilty of assaulting former Anniston Mayor Gene Robinson in May after an argument over a parking space.
After a nearly three-hour trial for the misdemeanor charge, District Court Judge Chris McIntyre found Travis Ronacher not guilty of third-degree assault.
Ronacher was arrested May 28 and charged in connection with shoving Robinson on May 8 outside Robinson’s former business on Noble Street.
Ronacher rents a former office building at 1004 Noble St., next to Robinson’s former business, Western Auto. Robinson served as Anniston’s mayor from 2008 to 2012.
Robinson alleged that Ronacher hit him in the eye, then shoved him, causing him to fall backward and hit his head on the concrete sidewalk.
Since the incident, Robinson told the court, through his right eye that was punched, he now sees what he termed “gnats” flying around his head.
Testimony from Derrick White, who works in a building across the street and who saw the incident, said Ronacher never punched Robinson, and that he appeared to fall onto his side, and not backward onto the concrete.
“It looked like a ‘get away from me’ kind of shove,” White told the court.
White said he was “totally shocked” when an ambulance showed up, an outcome that he said “seemed overboard.”
The incident began when Ronacher parked in a parking spot in front of Western Auto, a space which Robinson said was worth thousands of dollars to his business because customers park there. Robinson said he placed a chair in front of Ronacher’s car the morning of the incident so that Ronacher would be forced to talk with him about parking. Robinson’s son, Shaneyfelt Troy Robinson, placed another chair behind Ronacher’s car, Robinson said.
Ronacher, who told the court he is an Iraq War veteran being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, said he and the former mayor began arguing after Ronacher went outside to put something into his car. Robinson made a disparaging remark about the Iraq War, Ronacher said, and both men began yelling at each other.
Robinson said he remained calm throughout the incident, and it was Ronacher that was doing the yelling.
“I know that’s different from my character, but I was real calm and real quiet,” Robinson said.
Testimony from two other witnesses said both men were yelling.
Ronacher said he pushed Robinson after Robinson’s son and one of Robinson’s employees approached him along with the former mayor as Ronacher tried to enter his building. Ronacher said he felt that Robinson “was going to attack me.” Ronacher then called the police.
“I was looking for an escape the whole time,” Ronacher said. “I felt disrespected, bare minimum, and threatened…I have PTSD. I was rattled.”
Anniston police officer Michael Smith also testified during the trial Thursday. He said Ronacher told officers after the incident that he wanted to get out of the situation because he felt himself getting upset.
Smith said that Robinson seemed to “have his faculties about him” when speaking at the hospital, and told officers he did not know anything about any altercation and that he “had gotten overheated and lost consciousness.”
On the advice of his attorney, Ronacher declined to comment after the trial.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.