TAYLOR COUNTY—After receiving a life sentence in June 2019 for third offense domestic battery, Charles W. Mauller took his case to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Mauller, 32, of Flemington, was found guilty of domestic battery, battery and unlawful restraint, during his June trial. It took the collection of 12 men and women four hours and 22 minutes to deliberate before returning a guilty verdict.
The defendant was then ordered by Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Judge Alan D. Moats to serve life in prison with the eligibility of parole in 15 years.
In January, Mauller was arrested following an investigation after claims were made that he had repeatedly beat his victim over a three-day span. The victim stated that Mauller had beaten her at her father’s residence, at a friend’s house and while they were in a vehicle together.
She told officers that Mauller told her that he couldn’t live without her and would kill her if she attempted to leave him. According to his victim’s testimony, he threatened to stab her with an ice pick if she tried to leave.
His victim testified that she had gone voluntarily with Mauller on the evening of January 5. It wasn’t until January 8 that she was able to escape the abuse and run to a nearby auto parts store for help.
When first seen by law enforcement, the woman’s eyes were black and blue, her face was swollen and she had trouble trying to speak, Grafton Patrol Officer Paul Collins alleged.
During Mauller’s trial, the doctor who treated the victim testified that she had suffered injuries to her face, head and left ear. He further revealed that she had a cigarette burn on her face and “several linear injuries, abrasions, compatible with being made by a sharp object.”
The court also heard from victim’s father, who testified to the many injuries with victim sustained from Mauller’s beatings over the years.
Mauller and his counsel Jason Gain entered a petition to appeal the sentence set forth by Moats, stating that the sentence violated the defendant’s rights under both the West Virginia and United States Constitutions.
The defendant was subject to a recidivist conviction because of Mauller’s previous two previous third offense domestic battery charges; one in August 2008 and another more recently in May 2010.
The state filed the recidivist action against Mauller under West Virginia Code 61-11-18(c), which states, “a person shall have been twice before convicted in the United States of a crime punishable by confinement in a penitentiary, the person shall be contained in the state correctional facility for life.”
Gain, on behalf of Mauller, responded with a motion to dismiss the information, and the same day, entered a conditional admission to the information filed.
The appeal noted that the recidivist conviction set forth by Moats was unconstitutionally vague in whether the crimes were in fact violent, threatened violence or had a substantial impact on his victims.
It was the belief of the Mauller and Gain that a jury, rather than the circuit court, should have been allowed to hear evidence regarding his prior felony domestic battery convictions.
The court held firm that because of the nature of the prior convictions they were citing in the recidivist pertained to previous domestic battery, Mauller’s argument was rejected.
Mauller and his counsel also claimed that the court had failed to adhere to the required pretrial criminal competency evaluation because Gain had revealed to the court that his client was taking medication and had been diagnosed with an “explosive disorder.”
Citing that Moats was able to observe Mauller’s demeanor and make a judgement based on what he saw concerning a need for a mental competency evaluation, the court ruled in favor of the lower court once more.
Because the Supreme Court of Appeals found no evidence that Moat’s sentence was unconstitutional, Mauller’s appeal was denied, and Chief Justice Tim Armstead and Justices Elizabeth D. Walker, Evan H. Jenkins and John A. Hutchinson affirmed that his life sentence would stand.