EXCLUSIVE Geoffrey Paschel officially files appeal – full summary

90 Day Fiance Geoffrey Paschel appeal update

Former 90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days star Geoffrey Paschel is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence after being convicted on October 7, 2021 of aggravated kidnapping, domestic assault and interference with an emergency call for brutally beating his former fiance and holding her against her will in June of 2019.

Geoffrey and his new defense attorneys officially filed an appeal notice on July 6. After receiving multiple extensions, Geoffrey’s attorneys finally filed the Appellant’s brief on December 8. The brief details the six reasons that Geoffrey’s defense team believes their client’s conviction should be tossed out. I will include each of the reasons (with explanations for each) below.

First, I will share the defense’s recap of Geoffrey’s arrest and conviction from the brief:

STATEMENT OF FACTS

“Following an argument with his girlfriend, Kristin Wilson Chapman, Geoffry [sic] Paschel was arrested for misdemeanor domestic assault on June 9, 2019. Two and a half years later, Mr. Paschel was sentenced to 18 years to serve in the Tennessee Department of Corrections for the same incident that led to his June 9th arrest.

“Mr. Paschel was overcharged and over-sentenced. This trial was plagued with errors that violated the principles of Due Process and Mr. Paschel’s constitutional rights to a fair trial. United States Constitution Amendment Five, Six, and Fourteen. The trial court allowed the jury to hear improper testimony from two of the State’s three witnesses rather than declaring a mistrial either time the witnesses violated the court’s previous order. The jury convicted Mr. Paschel without sufficient evidence to establish each element beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The trial court expanded the trial errors at the sentencing hearing by allowing the state to present testimony on Ms. Chapman’s injuries and from Mr. Paschel’s ex-wife regarding Mr. Paschel’s alleged violent behavior. The court relied upon this improper and uncorroborated testimony to apply three enhancement factors and increase Mr. Paschel’s sentence 6 years above the minimum guideline range.”

Geoffrey Paschel’s Arguments For Appeal

1. “The trial court abused its discretion in refusing to grant a mistrial when officer Johnson, a lay witness, rendered a medical opinion that the wounds on Mr. Paschel were self-inflicted in direct contravention of the court’s order.”
 
One of the arresting officers testified at Geoffrey’s trial and was asked to describe the visible scratch marks on Geoffrey when officers arrived on the scene. In the arrest report and body cam footage, the scratch marks on Geoffrey are described as being consistent with scratches that were self-inflicted. From our post with details from the police report:

When officers spoke with Geoffrey, he told them that his girlfriend’s injuries were self-inflicted. And speaking of self-inflicted injuries, the arrest report reveals that “Geoffrey had scratch marks on his stomach and chest which appeared to be self-inflicted.”

It appeared as though Officer Johnson was about to testify that Geoffrey’s scratches looked to be self-inflicted when the defense objected. “Ultimately, the state agreed with defense counsel’s objection, and the trial court told the state to ‘stick to a visual description of the scratch marks.’”

Unfortunately, Officer Johnson didn’t seem to understand what he wasn’t supposed to say. From the court transcript:

PROSECUTOR: Okay. I’m going to ask you that a little bit differently this time. Just, just by telling us how they looked, I guess without, without anything further. How, how did the scratch marks on the body look?

OFFICER JOHNSON: They looked self-inflicted.

The Defense moved for a mistrial, which was denied. The judge “admonished the jury to disregard the last statement made by the officer and to not refer to it at all during their deliberations.”

From the Appellant’s Brief:

Following Officer Johnson’s unfair testimony that Mr. Paschel’s scratch marks were self-inflicted, Mr. Paschel faced an insurmountable obstacle in regaining credibility that was unjustly taken from him.

Officer Johnson’s testimony equated to the officer telling the jury that Mr. Paschel was a liar willing to inflict harm upon himself to corroborate his lies and that any harm to Ms. Chapman was complicitly unprovoked. Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant a mistrial based on this issue. No curative instruction would suffice here, especially when credibility is the primary trial issue.

2. “The trial court abused its discretion in refusing to grant a mistrial when Ms. Chapman, the accuser, alleged that the defendant had a history of violent behavior in violation of Tenn. R. Evid. 404(b).”
 
Soon after Geoffrey Paschel’s trial was over, most legal experts agreed this argument was his best chance of successfully appealing the conviction.

Geoffrey Paschel’s victim, Kristen Chapman, was testifying in regards to Geoffrey allegedly deleting items from her phone. During her testimony, Kristen alluded to previous instances of abuse at the hands of Geoffrey.

PROSECUTOR: And when, when you testified previously you stated that he had deleted some things on your phone. Can you tell us exactly what was deleted?

KRISTEN: Text messages between us. Every text that we had sent for our relationship, I had — I didn’t delete them and the whole text thread was gone when I got my phone back. Voicemails that he had left me were deleted; pictures, some pictures, not all pictures, but some pictures were deleted off my phone. I had some — I don’t know if I can say this. I had pictures of marks that he had left on me previously, from previous –

The defense again moved for a mistrial, which was again denied. From the brief:

Following the bench conference, the trial court recessed to consider the issue. Eventually, the trial court ruled that the comment was inappropriate but not to the level that warranted a mistrial because it was overall immaterial to whether the jury would believe Ms. Chapman or Mr. Paschel. Upon the jury’s return, the trial court gave another curative instruction to disregard Ms. Chapman’s testimony alleging Mr. Paschel’s prior abuse.

Such an abuse of discretion by the trial court, however, ignores the nuances of human perception. In this critical stage of the trial, knocking on the door of closing arguments, Ms. Chapman’s off-the-cuff statement irrevocably infected the jury’s ability to consider the matter fairly. After her statement, Mr. Paschel no longer stood trial for just one abusive act; the jury now had “evidence” that Mr. Paschel was a repeat abuser who fabricated or destroyed evidence to perpetuate his cycle of abuse.. For an extended period of time, the jury waited in a separate room just after hearing Ms. Chapman’s claim that Mr. Paschel had left marks on her before and deleted that evidence. After being brought back into the courtroom, the jury was instructed to ignore Ms. Chapman’s statement. Not only did the jury have plenty of time to contemplate the accusation that Mr. Paschel was a continual abuser, they were once more reminded of the very thing they were “supposed” to forget at the trial’s resumption.

3. “The trial court erred in failing to grant defense motion for new trial based on the lack of sufficiency of the evidence as a matter of law.”
 
I don’t believe this one requires much additional commentary or explanation. It’s basically claiming that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Geoffrey and that the case presented to the jury was essentially a “he said, she said” situation. Geoffrey’s attorneys attempt to downplay the graphic photos of Kristen’s injuries as evidence stating that the prosecution “never provided any medical proof of these injuries, nor was there any expert testimony as to how she could have received these injuries, except for her own testimony.”

4. “The trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant a mistrial due to ‘cumulative error.’”
 
The defense argues that the multiple “errors” in the case (including the testimony from Kristen Chapman and Officer Johnson) merited a mistrial, which was not granted.

5. “The trial court erred in sentencing Mr. Paschel to 18 years confinement based on the improper application of enhancement factors Tenn. Code ann. 40-35-114(6) and (12) which were predicated on the trial court’s erroneous finding that Ms. Chapman suffered serious bodily injury.”
 
This argument is a bit more complicated than it seems on the surface. Prosecutors elected to charge Geoffrey Paschel with aggravated kidnapping instead of the more serious charge of “especially aggravated kidnapping.” However, they asked for a sentence enhancement based on “serious bodily injury.” From the brief:

If the state wanted to charge “especially aggravated kidnapping” (incorporating serious bodily injury) T.C.A. 39-13-305, they should have, instead of the lesser charge of “aggravated kidnapping,” and not tried to shoehorn an enhancement that would have been an essential element of a charge, especially aggravated kidnapping, for the jury to have found facts sufficient beyond a reasonable doubt.

The brief then attempts to argue that Kristen’s injuries did not qualify as “serious bodily injury” regardless. “Ms. Chapman provided law enforcement with images of her injuries, most of which were relatively minor.”

6. “The trial court erred in sentencing Mr. Paschel to 18 years confinement by placing ‘great weight’ on the uncorroborated testimony of Mr. Paschel’s ex-wife, Allison Moon, first heard at the sentencing hearing to justify the application of Tenn. Code ann. 40-35-114(1) to enhance Mr. Paschel’s sentence (6) years above the minimum guideline range.”
 
One of Geoffrey’s numerous ex-wives testified at his sentencing and referenced multiple instances of alleged abuse at his hands. From the brief:

During the sentencing hearing, the trial court allowed testimony of prior criminal behavior attributed to Mr. Paschel from his ex-wife, Ms. Alison Moon, and further testimony by Ms. Chapman. Trial counsel was notified the previous night of this testimony.

Ms. Moon testified extensively about Mr. Pashel’s [sic] criminal behavior during their relationship. Ms. Moon testified repeatedly that she suffered verbal and physical abuse that was similar to the allegations of Ms. Chapman at trial. Ms. Moon testified, however, that there were no arrests, 911 calls, Orders of Protection, medical evidence, or pictures of injury during this time period.

The sentencing court, however, specifically recounted this testimony to support a finding of the additional criminal behavior enhancement. The sentencing court references Ms. Moon’s testimony is repeated, including her description of sadistic behavior, and uses it to establish that this is a “pattern of violent behavior that Mr. Paschel was engaged for a long time.” The sentencing court gave this testimony a “great deal of weight as I am imposing this sentencing.” The sentencing specifically states that these facts served to support his finding of additional criminal behavior under T.C.A. 40-35-114(1), leading him to a six-year enhancement and sentence of 18 years.

“…The trial court enhanced Mr. Paschel’s sentence six years above the minimum sentence based primarily on Ms. Moon’s uncorroborated, unsubstantiated testimony regarding additional criminal behavior. See T.C.A. 40-35-114(1). While the defense was deprived of the opportunity to investigate Ms. Moon’s allegations, the state claimed that they were aware of her desire to testify at Mr. Pashel’s [sic] sentencing at least in December 2021. Despite the state’s advanced notice of Ms. Moon’s allegations, the state failed to present any evidence to corroborate Ms. Moon’s decade-old allegations. Further, Ms. Moon confirmed that there was no evidence to corroborate her allegations.

…In fact, considering issue V, above, there were no enhancing factors in this case. The sentencing court should not have enhanced Mr. Pachel’s sentence and, instead, stayed at the 12-year minimum. Considering what Mr. Paschel was convicted of, his criminal history, the lack of “serious bodily injury” to Ms. Chapman, and the heavy reliance the sentencing court made on speculative prior criminal behavior, a 12-year sentence for Mr. Paschel was the only fair and legal sentence. At the very least, this court would be unable to determine what weight the sentencing court placed on either of these enhancements and should, therefore, vacate the sentence and remand to the trial court for resentencing.

When Will There Be A Decision On Geoffrey Paschel’s Appeal?

The appeals process is a lengthy one. For those of you curious to know when Geoffrey Paschel’s appeal will be ruled on, I found a “Timeline For An Appeal” on Justia.com. According to the timeline, the Appellee (prosecutors) have 30 days to file a response brief, which would be this weekend.

However, I assume that prosecutors may elect to do as Geoffrey’s attorney did and file for at least one extension. [UPDATE – The State of Tennessee filed for a 30-day extension on January 6, which was granted on January 10.]

After the Appellee’s brief is filed, Geoffrey will have 14 days to file a response. This response is optional and I do not know if this is something that is almost always done, almost never done, or somewhere in between.

“The court may also decide to hear oral arguments at this stage or at any stage of the case,” according to the Office of the Attorney General of Tennessee. “A three-judge panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals will issue an opinion after reviewing briefs, the trial court record, and any arguments.”

I checked a recent Tennessee criminal appeal case (State of Tennessee v. Darius Mack) for comparison. In that case, the Appellant’s brief was filed on July 8, 2022. The final opinion was issued on January 4, 2023, which is roughly six months later. That would equate to some time around June for Geoffrey.

However, I decided to check another case, and found one that has numerous similarities to Geoffrey’s. State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey C. Cochran is an aggravated kidnapping conviction appeal, just like Geoffrey’s, and the defense attorney is Geoffrey’s former attorney, Gregory Paul Isaacs!

The Appellant’s brief was filed on September 9 in that case and the final opinion was filed on December 27. That is less than four months, which would equate to an opinion on Geoffrey’s case some time in early April.

We will continue to monitor Geoffrey’s appeal and will be sure to share any major updates.

Asa Hawks is a writer and editor for Starcasm. You can contact Asa via Twitter, Facebook, or email at starcasmtips(at)yahoo.com


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