|Police officer convicted of domestic battery|
|Written by Dee Holzel|
|Saturday, November 19 2011 07:02|
WINNEMUCCA — An officer with the Winnemucca Police Department arrested in August and charged with multiple counts of domestic battery was convicted of those charges on Friday (Nov. 18) following a two-day bench trial in Union Township Justice Court.
Zach Formby, 25, was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail for each of the three counts, which was suspended. Under the conditions of the suspended sentence, the defendant must serve two days in the Lander County Detention Center by March 1 for each of the three counts, pay fines, attend one year of domestic violence counseling, obtain a psychological evaluation, and follow the recommendations of the counselor.
The case was presided over by Edward Dannan, Senior Justice of the Peace, who said he treats everyone the same no matter what their job is, whether they’re a police officer or a miner.
However, the consequences for Formby are different than other defendants convicted of the same charge because under federal law those convicted of domestic battery are prohibited from carrying, owning, or possessing firearms.
Neither the WPD nor the City of Winnemucca released a statement on how the conviction will effect Formy’s position as a police officer. Formby has been on administrative leave since his arrest on August 12.
Formby was represented at trial by Robert Dolan; the state was represented by Deputy DA Roger Whomes.
Formby was accused of throwing his wife to the floor, throwing her into a door, and throwing a key at her that cut her eye and resulted in a black eye – all while she was pregnant.
There was also another incident in which Amanda Formby went to the ER with an injury to her hand. She told investigators the injury came from Zach Formby throwing a cell phone at her.
However, at trial Amanda Formby took to the stand and told the court she lied about being battered. She said she lied to her ex-husband, lied to the ER nurses, lied to friends and lied to investigators.
She said she lied to make her husband look bad, but why she wanted to damage his reputation was not clear. There was some testimony that the couple briefly split up and Zach Formby began seeing another lady during that time.
Amanda Formby said she did not realize the consequences of filing false police reports and obtaining a temporary restraining order. She said she initially cooperated with investigators from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office because she thought they would help with the problems the couple was having in their marriage.
Whomes asked, “Do you understand that filing false police reports is illegal?”
Amanda Formby replied, “I didn’t know then, but I know now.”
She said she wrote in the police reports and the TRO application what she was told to write by HCSO investigators and domestic violence advocates. She further alleged investigators from the HCSO harassed her at work.
Whomes asked, “Are you saying you told nothing but lies because people made you lie.”
She replied, “Yes. I thought they were my friends, not just officers.”
Whomes introduced into evidence a photo taken by Amanda Formby herself that showed her black, cut eye that came as a result of a key being thrown at her during an argument with her husband on July 25.
Amanda Formby explained she bruises and cuts easily due to medication she took during her pregnancy.
Testifying on his own behalf was Zach Formby, who told the court he did not batter his wife.
Under questioning from Dolan, the defendant said his wife couldn’t be counted on to tell the truth. However, Zach said he loved her and even had the date of their wedding anniversary tattooed on his arm.
Dolan asked Zach Formby to demonstrate the manner in which he tossed the key to his wife. Zach stood and gently tossed the key to Dolan.
Despite the fact both of the Formbys insisted she lied about domestic battery, the state introduced evidence that raised doubts about whether she lied to investigators – or to the court.
Evidence showed Amanda Formby began indicating there was violence in the home nearly a year ago at about the same time she was treated at the ER for an injury to her hand.
She sent text messages to her former husband expressing concern for herself and her children due to Zach Formby’s temper. Amanda Formby has three children from a previous marriage that live with the couple, Zach Formby has a child from a previous marriage, and the two have a child in common who is a newborn.
In one text exchange which was introduced into evidence, Amanda Formby sent a text to her ex-husband asking him to take care of the children while she went away for a couple of days following a visit to the ER for an injury to her hand.
Amanda Formby wrote to her former husband, “Through all … we went through, I was never afraid of you.”
He responded, “You don’t have to live that way. Get help. He’s nuts. This is not a phase he’s going through.”
She responded, “I hate him and I hate myself.”
During the same exchange she said she couldn’t go to the police because she was afraid of the police due to her husband’s position with the WPD.
Amanda Formby dismissed the text messages from the stand saying her ex-husband would never help her with the kids and that was the only way she could get him to help. She also insisted she was not afraid to leave the children with Zach.
Whomes also introduced photos showing dents in a wall and door in the Formby home.
Amanda Formby showed both a close friend and later investigators dents in the wall and a door and said they were the result of her being thrown by Zach Formby. She also said a dent in the car was from Zach hitting the car during a moment of anger.
However, under questioning from Dolan both Amanda and Zach Formby said their home was cheaply constructed and the dents came from having a house full of rough and tumble kids.
Whomes also introduced statements made by ER nurses who saw Amanda Formby following the incident in which she arrived at the ER in July upset with a bruised and cut eye that, according to her own statement, needed six stitches.
According to the statements made to investigators by the ER nurses, they encouraged her to call police and asked if she had a safe place to go. She reportedly replied, “No.”
Melissa House, a friend and coworker, spoke with Amanda Formby after the ER visit and described her as upset, afraid, and unsure of what to do next. Amanda reportedly wanted Zach to move out of the house.
Amanda also indicated she was afraid of what would happen if she reported the incident. She was afraid she would be harassed by her husband’s coworkers from the police department and/or harassed by her coworkers.
House said she spoke to Amanda Formby just days before the trial and her attitude had changed. She described her friend as defensive and said Zach was being treated differently because he’s a police officer.
House quoted Amanda saying, “If this was anybody else they would let it go. He’s not the only one who beats his wife. She said she was pretty sure (one of the investigators) beats his wife.”
Amanda also sent a text message in which she said she was worried Zach would lose his job as a result of the trial, that they would lose their home, and she wouldn’t have anywhere to go.”
The investigation was conducted by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office.
According to Deputy Kathy Green, she suggested turning the investigation over to an outside agency, which was not done. She did not say whose decision that was.
Green, who had very little to do with the investigation, said was uncomfortable with the matter because she and Zach Formby worked together and were friends.
Sgt. Tony Cantwell, who also worked on the investigation, would later tell the court he was unaware of Green’s request to have the case transferred to an outside agency.
Cantwell said his role was limited to taking Amanda Formby’s report and a couple of follow-ups with her. This was in contrast to Amanda Formby’s allegations she was harassed at work by Cantwell.
Under questioning from Dolan, Cantwell said he also interviewed Zach Formby. When asked if Zach Formby was forthright and cooperative, Cantwell agreed he was.
HCSO Detective Jim Loveless told the court Amanda Formby said when they first got together Zach was good to her and her three children. Later, he began to have mood swings.
Amanda Formby took the detective through the house and showed him the damage done when Zach reportedly threw her into the wall or the door.
Dolan asked if Loveless examined the walls or doors; if he noticed how cheaply the materials were and how easily damaged they were.
Loveless indicated he did not. He also said he did not go into other homes in the neighborhood to determine if they were equally damaged from having rough and tumble kids.
Dolan put three witnesses on the stand who each testified they felt Amanda Formby was not truthful; that her stories were always changing.
During closing arguments, Dolan noted there were many reasons a person might lie.
In convicting the defendant Judge Dannen picked up on the theme and added one more reason a person might lie: economics.
A woman with three children and a newborn would certainly worry about how she was going to take care of her children if her husband became unemployed.
Dannen added he was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt the instances of domestic violence occurred.
|Last Updated on Saturday, November 19 2011 07:40|