A jury dealt a swift blow to Brian Calhoun's justification for fighting with a female student in March, taking only one hour to find the former Fresno City College instructor guilty of misdemeanor battery.
Calhoun, 69, closed his eyes and had a scowl once the verdict was announced in Fresno County Superior Court. His attorney, Roger Nuttall, grabbed Calhoun's right arm and shook it, but Calhoun kept this eyes closed even while jurors were being polled individually about their verdict.
Once Judge Denise Whitehead scheduled a Nov. 22 sentencing date, Calhoun rushed out of Department 72, bypassed the elevator and raced down seven flights of stairs without commenting.
His wife, Elaine, followed in his wake.
Calhoun lost his job over the March 22 incident and was sued by the victim, Kevynn Gomez -- who was portrayed Friday by Calhoun's attorney as part of "the thug culture."
In 2004, Calhoun pleaded guilty to drunken driving after getting pulled over on Election night after winning a second term to the Fresno City Council. He was given probation back then.
Now, he's left wondering if he will get jail time for this offense. The battery charge carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a fine. Whitehead offered to sentence Calhoun immediately after the verdict was announced, but he declined.
Afterward, Nuttall said Calhoun was disappointed "because he honestly believes he did not commit a crime."
Nuttall also was surprised: "Frankly, I thought it was going to be a quick acquittal."
Prosecutor Michael Brummel said he was pleased with the outcome and proud of Gomez and the eight other FCC students who testified.
"She's a brave young woman who stood up to a bully when others wouldn't," Brummel told the jury in closing arguments Friday.
Brummel also told jurors that some of the students who testified against Calhoun were in his class and liked him as an instructor but were shocked by his actions.
Both sides agree Calhoun first confronted Gomez's instructor, Michael Medrano, about being late dismissing a class. Medrano's Chicano-Latino Studies class was taking a midterm exam; Calhoun told Medrano his students had to leave the classroom because it was Calhoun's turn to use the room.
Medrano testified last week that Calhoun shouted at him and said: "Your students have to leave now. This is my time."
What happened next is in dispute.
Gomez testified she cursed at Calhoun for yelling at Medrano and disrupting her and the other students taking the midterm. She said Calhoun pursued her into the hallway, grabbed her arm and pinned her against a wall, then body slammed her.
But she also said Calhoun never cursed her or hit her.
Calhoun admitted that he "held" one of Gomez's biceps; he declined to say he "grabbed" her arm. He said his goal was to get her name and report her to the dean -- not hurt her.
Calhoun denied pinning Gomez against a wall or lifting the 5-foot-2, 102-pound Gomez off the ground and body-slamming her to the floor. "Physically, I could not do it," Calhoun said, telling the jury he was 5-foot-9 and 157 pounds and too old to be lifting that much weight.
But he admitted that he pinned Gomez's arms to her side so she wouldn't hit him again. He then laid her on the floor on her back, he said: "I did it in a way that I did not hurt her."
In defending Calhoun, Nuttall tried to strike a nerve with the jury of nine men and three women by portraying Gomez as a member of "the thug culture," a young generation of students who lack respect for authority or elders.
He described her as angry, profane, insolent and aggressive and insisted that she instigated the fight inside the Old Administration Building.
"The thug culture," Nuttall said, "is, 'I can say anything I want to this old man.' "
All Calhoun did was grab her arm and ask Gomez her name so he could report her to authorities, Nuttall told jurors. Instead of complying, Gomez slugged Calhoun in the face three times, Nuttall said. The blows bloodied his face, broke his glasses and loosened a tooth, he said.
"She hit him so hard his blood was splattered on her face," Nuttall said.
But Brummel said Gomez was defending herself. Her punches were thrown after Calhoun pinned her against the wall with his forearm under her neck, he said.
Calhoun then responded by body slamming Gomez to the floor, the prosecutor said.
Nuttall said he faced an uphill battle because Whitehead ruled that the evidence showed Calhoun may have committed four charges of battery: the initial grabbing of Gomez's arm; pinning her against the wall; holding her against her will; and body-slamming her.
Before deliberations, Whitehead instructed the jury it only needed to vote unanimously on one of the four battery allegations to reach a verdict.
The judge defined battery as the willful and unlawful touch of another person in an offensive or harmful manner. She said the prosecution did not have to prove Calhoun "intended to break the law."
The slightest tough is enough to find a defendant guilty of battery if it was done in a rude or angry manner, Whitehead said. It does not require the victim to suffer pain or injury. Gomez testified that she suffered abrasions from her altercation with Calhoun.
And curse words do not justify someone committing a battery, Whitehead told the jury. To be found innocent, the defendant has to prove he acted in self-defense and had a reasonable belief he was in imminent danger, Whitehead said.
The 12-member panel originally had four women, but one was excused Friday morning for a family emergency.
After the verdict was announced, 11 of the 12 jurors left the courthouse without commenting. Juror No. 6, a football coach who declined to give his name, said the panel voted unanimously that an angry Calhoun touched Gomez and the touching was unwanted.
"It was pretty clear-cut," he said. "We only had to find him guilty of one, but I would have found him guilty of all four."
Read more of the comments made during Friday's closing arguments on Pablo Lopez's Twitter page
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