A former southeast Iowa police chief was found not guilty Wednesday afternoon of assaulting his wife in May, 2015. The jury of 3 men and 3 women deliberated for less than 45 minutes before returning the verdict in the trial of William "BJ" Sackett.
Sackett faced one count of Domestic Abuse Assault following an incident at his home in Donnellson. He was the local police chief at the time.
Due to that, the Van Buren County Attorney’s office prosecuted the case instead of the Lee County Attorney's office.
Virginia Barchman, Assistant County Attorney, told jurors that Sackett and his wife got into an argument after a night of drinking. Barchman said it eventually escalated to violence, resulting in injuries to both.
Sackett testified that he never struck his wife or attempted to choke her, as Barchman implied during the trial. Instead, he said their injuries occurred while they tried to clean up a broken candle holder and that he went to bed instead of continuing the argument.
Law enforcement was dispatched to Sackett’s home at about 3:48 a.m. on May 18, 2015.
Sackett testified that earlier in the night, he and his wife were with friends in West Point. He said as they drove home, his wife was pulled over for driving more than 100 mph. He said the speeding ticket prompted the argument in question.
An emergency dispatcher testified that when Sackett’s wife called 911, she said it was a “domestic”, which prompted Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Wade to respond with lights flashing and sirens running, “as we typically respond to all emergency and domestic calls.”
Wade said when he arrived, Sackett's wife was in a parking area outside her home. Wade testified that she had a cut on her leg, with glass embedded in it, blood on her neck and upper-chest, and a chipped tooth.
Sackett's wife did not testify in the case, or even appear in the courtroom, and a video-taped interview with her following the incident was not introduced as evidence.
A roughly 10-minute video-taped interview with William Sackett was played for jurors.
On the tape, Sackett said that he had been drinking and that he did not remember much of the previous night. Sackett was asked a series of questions:
- About the cut on her leg - “I did not cause the cut. She cut her leg on stuff broken on the floor.”
- If he knew law enforcement was there – “I was probably snoozing by then.”
- When he realized something happened – “I rolled over and saw she was not there. I started to recollect.”
Sackett was also asked if he told his wife, “I hope you die bitch.” He responded, “Could have.” He stated in the interview that in the past his wife had threatened to hit herself and blame him.
On the witness stand, Sackett said he has had months to think about that night and to remember things about it that he did not remember during the interview.
“She was getting hysterical. I had enough and I went to bed. This has been a heavy burden on my life for the last year from that day. Nothing has been the same.”
The not guilty verdict means a court-ordered no contact order against William Sackett has been lifted. He said he did not know where his wife was -- in part because he has not been able to see or talk to her since the incident.