… Rita Christine Anderson, 55, was knocked unconscious during the July 7, 2010 altercation …
By Kellie Woodhouse, email@example.com
5:48 PM EDT, July 7, 2011
A Howard County Circuit Court judge on Thursday, July 7, sentenced a 55-year-old woman convicted in March of assaulting an officer to 18 months in jail.
The sentence exceeded the 15-month jail term requested by the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Rita Christine Anderson, of Columbia, was convicted of assaulting a Howard County police officer during an altercation last July in which the officer wound up punching Anderson in the face, knocking her unconscious.
Throughout the three-day trial, Assistant Howard County State’s Attorney Natasha Byus contended that Anderson punched Pfc. Dale Kreller on the chin as he tried to get her to leave the Fall River townhouse complex in Harper’s Choice, prompting Kreller’s use of force.
Kreller was responding to a 911 call made by Anderson’s brother-in-law, who testified during the trial that Anderson was drunk and acting unruly and would not leave his mother-in-law’s townhouse when asked.
Byus argued that Anderson provoked Kreller’s attack by pushing and punching him, yelling profanities and asking him repeatedly to take her to jail.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Louis A. Becker agreed.
“You invited and egged on the assault,” he told Anderson.
Becker said he would recommend that the Howard County Detention Center grant her work release, which would allow Anderson to work during the day and spend evenings and weekends in jail.
Becker also gave Anderson an eight-and-a-half year suspended sentence to be served if she violates her probation upon release.
Since the incident, Anderson and her attorney, Timothy Davis, have maintained that she did not punch Kreller.
Anderson has admitted to acting unruly and being drunk. In fact, Byus said that after the incident, Anderson’s blood alcohol level of .318, was well above the legal limit of .08.
“In Howard County, when you assault an officer, you should go to jail,” Byus said after the hearing, adding that she was not surprised by Becker’s eight-and-a-half year suspended sentence.
Davis said that he was “stunned” and “disappointed” by what he considered a harsh sentence.
“Eighteen months for what?” Anderson said outside the courthouse. “People have gotten a DUI and killed someone and got less time than me.”
During the hearing, Anderson pleaded with Becker for a light sentence.
She said she is living at the Grassroots Crisis Prevention Center’s shelter and has been actively looking for a job. She also said that she has stopped drinking.
“I don’t even take communion anymore,” she said, later adding: “I am trying so hard to do the right thing, but I keep getting pulled back. … I’m taking responsibility for my part and I sure hope the officer does, because it’s not easy for me to go to sleep.”
But Byus said that Anderson has had multiple run-ins with law enforcement and assaulted an officer with a 5-inch metal pole during a previous incident in 1997. Additionally, Anderson was convicted of second-degree assault in 2004. Both of those cases were fueled by alcohol, Byus said.
“Alcohol and Mrs. Anderson do not mix well together,” Byus said.
Additionally, Becker chided Anderson for being more than 20 minutes late to the sentencing hearing.
“Perhaps being late here today is somewhat symbolic of your behavior as a human being,” Becker said. Anderson missed her original sentencing date in June because of medical reasons, Davis said at the time.
Davis still maintains his client’s innocence. “If my client is guilty of anything, it’s being an alcoholic,” he said.
… Goodbye, Ms. Anderson. …