October 25, 2014

Elyria
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Rebuttal expert: Too little evidence for abuse defense

ELYRIA — A psychologist testifying for the prosecution in the trial of Tina D’Agostino told a jury Friday that he didn’t think there was enough evidence for another expert to determine that D’Agostino was a battered woman when she shot her former boyfriend in 2010.

Dr. Robert Stinson said he reviewed the file of the defense expert, Dr. James Eisenberg, who testified Thursday that D’Agostino was a battered woman who shot Steven Augustus in self-defense after Augustus used a hammer to punch open the lock on their bedroom door.

“(Eisenberg) did not do an adequate assessment of malingering,” which is also known as faking or exaggerating symptoms, Stinson said.

Stinson said that Eisenberg clearly noted that he assumed D’Agostino was telling the truth about physical abuse because the two people D’Agostino said could corroborate the abuse told Eisenberg they never saw bruises or injuries.

Stinson also had a problem with the lack of details on the eight to 10 alleged incidents of physical confrontations reported by D’Agostino.

He said it would be important to fully flesh out each of the incidents to show what led up to the alleged abuse, including what happened and what D’Agostino was thinking.

Instead, Eisenberg fully detailed just one of the incidents in which D’Agostino alleged that Augustus held her by the neck over a balcony of his former condominium, Stinson said.

Eisenberg told the jury that he was troubled by the fact that Augustus had put a lock on the electrical breaker box to control whether D’Agostino had access to hot water and heat, saying it was evidence that Augustus was controlling.

But Stinson said the fact that Augustus needed a lock to control whether D’Agostino could turn up the heat or use hot water would tend to indicate she was not a battered woman.

If a battered person was truly under another person’s control, “just a look” would be sufficient, Stinson said.

Defense attorney Jenifer Berki aggressively questioned Stinson, noting that Eisenberg was “a seasoned doctor” who had evaluated 23 prior cases of battered women’s syndrome among the 5,000 cases in his career. Stinson said he had been involved in “a handful” of battered women’s cases.

Berki asked Stinson about Augustus’ testimony that he got angry because D’Agostino was always using hot water to wash her hands.

“That he got mad at her because she was washing her hands too much, that’s not controlling?” Berki asked.

Stinson replied that that incident and others may or may not be evidence that Augustus was controlling.

Berki told Stinson that Augustus also acknowledged getting involved in shoving matches with D’Agostino.

Stinson replied, “There’s no doubt in my mind this relationship was not healthy.”

Assistant County Prosecutor Donna Freeman also called Augustus’ adult son, Dominic Augustus, as a rebuttal witness on Friday.

D’Agostino had testified Tuesday that Dominic Augustus begged her to stay with his father and had told her that she was “the best thing that ever happened to my dad.”

Dominic Augustus said the exchange never occurred, but he recalled another incident several years ago when D’Agostino told him, “I started getting intimate with your dad two months ago.” “It was very, very weird,” Dominic Augustus said. “It was like, ‘Why are you telling me this? I’m only 16 years old.’ “

He said it was D’Agostino who was controlling, and he described the relationship between his father and D’Agostino as “mixing water and oil—it just didn’t work.”

The jury will hear closing arguments Tuesday morning. D’Agostino faces charges of felonious assault with a three-year gun specification, as well as domestic violence and theft of Augustus’ truck.

Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery agreed Friday to allow the jury to also consider a lesser charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.