July 31, 2006 – Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar granted a motion made Monday by prosecutors to revoke bail for St. John resident Robert Sells, convicted late last month of aggravated assault and battery (a misdemeanor), and a "felony enhancement charge" for "racial bias" against fellow St. Johnian Esther Frett.
Sells will now remain in jail until he is sentenced for the crimes.
According to prosecutors, the minimum sentence for the misdemeanor is one year, while the felony charge could keep Sells in jail for a minimum of five years.
Hollar made this ruling after Frett – who claimed last year that Sells used racial slurs to intimidate her and nearly knocked her over during a confrontation on June 3, 2005 – told the court Monday that Sells had threatened her a few days after being convicted.
Prior to the conviction, Frett also told police that Sells had used racial slurs to intimidate her for more than two years (See "Sells Pleads Innocent to Charges").
During the hearing, Frett alleged that while she was traveling home on June 27, 2006, Sells passed her on the road, and shouted, "Bitch, if I go to jail, then you're going to die."
Frett said shortly after the encounter, she spotted a Police car at a nearby bar and stopped to tell officers what had happened.
"She was crying, trembling, and was very scared when she recounted the incident," Detective Kent Hodge said when called to the stand by prosecuting attorney Brenda Scales. "After she told us what happened, we escorted her home, then went to look for Mr. Sells to talk to him about what happened."
Hodge said that when confronted by police, Sells denied that he had spoken to Frett.
"I have had nothing to say to Mrs. Frett in over a year," Sells said later in the hearing.
Her husband, who said that the couple went to file a police report shortly after Frett came home, corroborated Frett's story. "At that time, she had tears in her eyes, and was on the verge of crying," her husband said.
Frett also alleged that Sells played a part in an encounter she had earlier this month with an unknown woman. "That day was Food Fair day on St. John, and when I was about ready to go home, I noticed that Mr. Sells and four white women were around the area near my tent," she said. "They were talking, and Mr. Sells pointed at me. One of the ladies then came toward me, looked me up and down, and walked back to the group."
Frett said later that the same woman pounded on the hood of her vehicle after she climbed into her car to go home. "She said, 'Bitch, what you're doing is wrong and this shit has got to stop,'" Frett said. "She said she was a friend of Bob Sells.'"
Frett added that she and Marva Anthony – an employee of Frett's – filed a police report against the woman after the incident occurred.
Later in the hearing, Sells said that he did not instruct the woman to confront Frett. "When I saw that she was going over to Mrs. Frett's car, I walked away," he said. "That day, I didn't even notice that I was standing next to Mrs. Frett's tent. When I did notice it, I told my friends that I couldn't be there, that I had to leave."
Throughout the hearing Sells – whose sentence was supposed to have come down Monday – maintained his innocence, and said that he did not recognize Frett's car when he passed her on the road late last month.
Hollar said she did not believe Sells, and called the case an "issue of credibility."
"We've heard testimony about her demeanor on the night of the incident, and she gave very specific details about what happened to her," Hollar said. "I also don't think, since the two used to work together, that he wouldn't be able to recognize her car if he passed her on the road."
Hollar subsequently granted the prosecution's motion to revoke Sells' bail. However, she also granted a motion made by the defense for an extension to file post conviction motions.
According to defense attorney Treston Moore, the extension would allow the defense to petition the court for a new trial, an arrest of judgment (an attempt to keep a judgment or portion of a judgment from applying to a particular defendant), and a judgment acquittal.
During the hearing, Moore said the charge of aggravated assault – for which Sells was found guilty last month – does not apply in this case, since Frett was not injured after her encounter with Sells last year. "Mrs. Frett clearly said he bumped her," Moore said. "That does not imply an intent to injure."
Moore added that he had requested a transcript of last month's hearing, which would "prove" that "there isn't sufficient evidence to sustain the charges."
"Mrs. Frett stated that Mr. Sells simply bumped into her, causing her to lose her balance," Moore said. "He didn't use his fists, he didn't use his hands, and there was no injury."
While Hollar said the defense was trying to "delay, delay, delay" the sentencing, Moore added that he had recently found new evidence applicable to the case within a Federal Bureau of Investigations file. "There were additional witness statements, and three to four letters that Mrs. Frett had written to her landlord," he said. "We need to examine that material."
Hollar did not say when the trial would resume. However, she told Moore that the defense has until Aug. 15 to file the proper motions. The prosecution has until Aug. 25 to review the motions and file its own, if necessary.
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