An Ohatchee Town Council member was found not guilty of assault on Tuesday in what both he and a Weaver man, also charged in the incident, described as a drunken brawl.
Calhoun County deputies arrested Perry Howard, 57, in January after Zachary Campbell, 30, filed a warrant against the council member on a third-degree assault charge for allegedly punching him in the face and knocking him out of his wheelchair. Campbell was paralyzed below his sternum after a motorcycle wreck, according to testimony during the trial on Tuesday.
Howard, after being arrested and released on a $3,000 bond, filed a warrant against Campbell on the same charge, alleging the 30-year-old had grabbed him by the collar, gouged at his eye and scratched his ear, causing him to bleed.
Calhoun County District Judge Chris McIntyre held a trial Tuesday for both men on the misdemeanor charges.
The men were gathered at the home of Howard’s girlfriend and Campbell’s mother, Wendi Campbell, for dinner and a football game on Dec. 30, according to testimony. (The specific game was never mentioned during the trial, but Wisconsin and Miami played in the Capital One Orange Bowl at 7 that night.)
Wendi Campbell testified during the trial that her son was upset that he had to pick up and pay for dinner.
“The restaurant said they didn’t take debit cards over the phone anymore so I asked if he could just pay and I’d pay him back,” she said. “He apparently was upset about having to do that.”
Over the course of a few hours, Campbell said she, Howard and her son drank beer, wine and liquor. Howard described the trio as inebriated, but Zachary Campbell disagreed.
“I was sober by the time of the incident,” he said.
Wendi Campbell testified that Howard had fallen asleep in a recliner when she and her son went into separate rooms of the Mitchellville Road home.
“We come out at the same time and he shoves me out of the blue,” she said. “I’m sitting, looking at him and he’s just got these crazy eyes. I told him to leave.”
Campbell said she shut herself in a bedroom and refused to come out until her son left the home. Howard testified he woke up after a loud commotion and went to investigate.
“He was just acting crazy,” Howard said. “He was cussing her, me. I tried to talk to him at first, going back and forth between him and the locked door. Trying to figure out what’s wrong with Wendi.”
Howard testified that Campbell refused to leave and it was then the councilman put his hands on the man’s wheelchair.
“I tried to wheel him out toward the door,” Howard said. “He grabbed me by the collar of my shirt. I hit him with my right hand. I finally got pried loose, retreated down a hallway, and this hurts me to say this, but he was dragging himself across the floor to get back at me.”
Howard was left with a bloodshot eye and a cut to his ear.
Campbell, however, testified that his mother fell after he had to shove past her to leave the home.
“I asked her to slow down, my mother, on the drinking,” he said. “Like always, she got a bad attitude about it. She was verbally downing me.”
Campbell said his mother then blocked his way down the hallway and he put one arm up to push around her.
“I had this arm trying to get through the door and trying to do what she asked me to do, leave. She stumbled back and it knocked her out of her high-wedge flip flops and she fell,” he said.
Howard, according to Campbell’s account, then confronted the man.
“I hear Perry come into the kitchen and asked me if I hit my momma,” he said. “He swung at me and struck me in the jaw. I fell out of my chair and he was on top of me wailing on me. My back was sore and I had a knot on the back of my head where it hit the floor.”
Campbell admitted to poking Howard in the eye.
“All I could do was mash him in the eye to get him off of me. I never touched him until I had to,” he said.
Jodie Sims, a friend of Campbell, was also at the home during the incident.
“Perry went into the bedroom, talked to Wendi, then came back and reared back and punched him,” Sims said of Campbell. “He continued to punch him in the stomach. I pulled Perry, then he stops all of a sudden like he realized what he was doing.”
Despite their both admitting to causing physical injury to each other, McIntyre found both of the men not guilty of the misdemeanor charge.