ITHACA, N.Y. — As the trial for Tompkins County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Vann began to wrap up on Monday morning, the defense called a final witness to the stand before beginning closing statements.
Dr. William Shepherd, an emergency room physician at Cayuga Medical Center, testified that he examined Vann in the early morning hours after an incident on March 30, 2015, where Vann was accused of assaulting a woman during a domestic dispute.
Vann currently faces 14 charges against him related to his relationship with the same woman who accused him of attacking her. Some of the charges include assault, grand larceny, robbery and tampering with evidence.
While the defense and prosecution both say that the relationship was ‘volatile’ and often physical, the issues came to a peak on March 30, when Vann and the woman allegedly got into a fight which continued to escalate.
The woman alleged that Vann pinned her down in an effort to take her phone away, smashed her coffee table, and broke the molding on her bathroom door. She also accused him of choking her and throwing her over a garden fence.
Vann denies these accusations and told police the following day that he only “shouldered the door” open, breaking it, because the woman – who has a history of mental health issues – went into the bathroom with a pair of scissors. He says he feared she would hurt herself.
The two allegedly continued to fight, which led to the doorway between the garage and the woman’s upstair apartment, where Vann said he accidentally closed her foot in the door.
Vann told police that they went upstairs and took the woman’s sock off to examine the injury to her foot and she kicked him in the eye, causing him to nearly black out.
Both Vann and the woman were examined separately in the emergency room at Cayuga Medical Center in the following hours, and both sustained injuries.
Dr. Shepherd, who examined Vann, said he saw Vann when he came into the emergency room following the incident.
“He came in early in the morning with an injury to the face and the back of the head – he had been struck around the left eye,” Shepherd said.
While the doctor said Vann did not suffer any broken bones or internal bleeding, he reported that Vann was experiencing decreased vision in his left eye, and suffered a soft tissue injury and laceration to his left eyelid. Additionally, Shepherd said he also reported a subconjunctival hemorrhage – or broken blood vessels – in his left eye.
“One of Vann’s chief complaints was flashing of light in his eye, which can be a symptom of retinal detachment,” Shepherd said. “Retinal detachment needs to be evaluated by an ophthalmologist, and we had no ophthalmology coverage at that time in the morning.”
Tess Gonyou, the physician’s assistant who examined the woman after the incident, said the victim came in “after an alleged assault, saying her boyfriend had assaulted her and threw her over a fence.” Gonyou testified last week.
In response to the defense’s concern about the woman’s mental health, Gonyou said self-harm was something she saw in the emergency room “almost daily.”
“I observed abrasions on her right arm, on her back, and bruising and swelling of her right ankle,” Gonyou said. “She had an abrasion on her back, which would be a very unlikely place for someone who engages in self-harm to access. I did not see any evidence of cutting – had I seen cutting, I would have made an entirely different evaluation of the patient.”
Dr. Shepherd was the final witness for the defense before attorneys began closing statements on Monday afternoon. Statements will continue into Tuesday, which will be followed by jury deliberation.