Jody S. Chansler, a Fort Dodge police officer who was accused of assaulting his wife during an argument, has been found not guilty one day after a bench trial was held.
The state didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chansler, 41, intentionally hurt his wife during an Aug. 13 argument, which was over a cell phone, Magistrate William Habhab ruled Friday morning.
"During the course of the argument there was contact between the Defendant and his wife," Habhab wrote in his ruling. "However, that contact cannot be described as contact designed or intended to inflict pain or injury."
Chansler's attorney, Derek Johnson, said he was happy with the verdict.
"Whether someone is a police officer or not, I don't think anybody should be convicted of a serious crime like this based on the evidence presented," Johnson said. "I think it's the right outcome and I'm just hoping that Jody can get back to work and get this behind him as quick as possible."
Assistant Kossuth County Attorney Stephanie Miller, who prosecuted the case due to a conflict of interest with the Webster County attorney's office, said that while the judge disagreed with the state's argument, she hoped that wouldn't discourage victims of domestic violence from reporting their own cases to police.
"I think the state put forth all of the evidence that we had," Miller said. "I just hope that the victims of domestic assault continue to come forward and report domestic violence against them."
Chansler admitted in court that he asked his wife for her phone, and she handed it over to him. He then testified that he refused to give the phone back until his wife revealed who the unknown number on her phone belonged to.
Chansler said at trial that his wife tried grabbing the phone from him as he switched it between his pockets.
"She was just grabbing at me, trying to get the phone back," he said in court Thursday afternoon.
At one point during the early morning hours of Aug. 13, Chansler began walking to the back door of his home, saying he wanted to take the argument outside so the couple's children wouldn't be awakened.
Miller said it was at this point that Chansler knocked over his wife.
"The evidence shows that Jody Chansler was going to get through that door regardless of what happened," she said. "He had control over the situation. He did what he wanted to do."
Her evidence included testimony from an emergency room nurse who examined Chansler's wife after the incident and an investigator from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation who interviewed Chansler. Special Agent Jon Turbett said investigators decided to file charges against Chansler because the defendant could have prevented the entire incident.
"This could have been prevented by giving the phone back," Turbett said. "It was all in the defendant's hands."
Chansler took the stand in his own defense and denied assaulting his wife.
"She was in between myself and the door," he said. "She lunges at me to get her phone and got knocked down."
Instead, Chansler said, their bodies made physical contact and "bumped together."
"I didn't assault her," Chansler said.
A 12-year veteran of the Fort Dodge Police Department, Chansler has been on paid administrative leave since the charges were filed on Aug. 13.
In addition to the criminal case, an internal investigation was also begun within the department.
Chief Tim Carmody said that investigation has not been completed, but he said Friday afternoon that Chansler would be coming back.
Johnson said he wasn't sure when Chansler would be allowed back on the force.