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September 11, 2012 | 06:00 PMELKHORN - Almost all the players in a dramatic domestic abuse incident asked the judge not to send the convicted man to prison.
The victim told Judge David Reddy on Wednesday, Sept. 5 that her boyfriend shouldn't be incarcerated for an incident that occurred five years ago in the town of Geneva.
On July 7, 2007, Michael D. Hatton, now 30, chased his girlfriend with a van around his lawn and attempted to run her over. During the same incident, Hatton chased the victim with a knife. She fled to a neighbor's home to escape him.
Hatton's father asked the judge to place his son on probation, and Hatton asked Reddy for a second chance.
The Department of Corrections recommended a four-year probation sentence, and public defender Travis Schwantes said his client has successfully completed probation in the past and should receive it again.
However, Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo asked the judge to send Hatton to prison.
"This is not a guessing game to what this defendant is capable of," she said.
She argued that the 2007 incident wasn't isolated, and that Hatton has threatened to kill the woman in the past.
"We can't risk that the defendant will be successful in his threats to the victim," Donohoo said.
Reddy agreed with Donohoo. He sent Hatton to prison for two years and placed him on extended supervision for another two years.
In July, a Walworth County jury found Hatton guilty of felony second-degree reckless endangerment and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
The misdemeanor charge stems from a November 2011 incident where Hatton and the victim fought, and Hatton threw a safe against a dresser.
Hatton has already served nearly eight months in county jail, which will be applied to his prison sentence.
He is eligible for the earned release program, which may further reduce the amount of the time he is incarcerated.
When given a chance to speak, Hatton said he disagreed with the jury's verdict but takes responsibility for why the police were called to his home.
"I scared my fiancé, my best friend and most importantly the mother of my children," he said.
He said spending eight months in jail has changed him.
"I'm not asking for a break, I'm asking for a second chance," he said.
Reddy told Hatton he received a second chance when he was placed on probation after a 2003 fleeing conviction.
"This is your third chance, and it only gets worse," Reddy said.
During the sentencing hearing, Donohoo talked about incidents in which Hatton was arrested and charged with ordinance violations, and other times when the victim filed civil injunctions against him.
While in the county jail, Hatton also called the victim and told her she didn't have to testify, that she didn't have to show up to court and that she could refuse to testify.
"To believe he can be controlled and follow court orders, that is beyond the state's comprehension" Donohoo said. "With a very cavalier attitude, he does whatever he wishes to achieve his own ends."
The victim admitted she and Hatton have had problems, but what relationship doesn't, she added.
"Alcoholism is a disease. When he doesn't drink or use he is an awesome father," she said. "I don't believe prison is right for him."
"He tries to manipulate (the victim) and that's a reflection of what we saw today," Donohoo said.
Schwantes argued for an imposed but stayed prison sentence for his client. An imposed but stayed prison sentence means that Hatton will only serve his sentence if he violates the terms of his supervision.
Schwantes also argued that the offense happened more than five years ago, and that Hatton is a good person when he is sober.
"What I think is important to look at with each of these two offenses, for what it's worth and I think it is worth something, that there were no actual injuries," Schwantes said.
Wednesday afternoon's 2 1/2 hour court hearing doesn't end Hatton's legal troubles.
He also faces misdemeanor theft charges for allegedly collecting unemployment benefits while incarcerated in the Walworth County Jail.
Those charges are pending and he is scheduled for a jury trial.