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Man convicted of strangulation, assault

Rasheen Ellis and victim testify in front of jury

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County jury took about 15 minutes on Monday to convict Rasheen Ellis of Altoona of strangulation and two simple assault offenses filed in February by Altoona police.

Both the victim and Ellis, 43, testified during the trial and told the jury their version of what happened

Feb. 19 inside a residence on the 1900 block of 14th Avenue. But the victim backed up her version with a time-stamped photo of the red marks the assault left on her neck.

“The defense wants to say there’s no evidence in this case, but that looks like a lot of evidence to me,” Assistant District Attorney Ian Hausner told the jury in his closing argument as he displayed the 4:27 p.m. photo of the woman’s neck on a

large screen.

When Ellis testified, he told the jury that both he and the victim were drinking wine on Feb. 19 when they got into an argument.

He said it was common for her skin to become “flush” when drinking. Testimony indicated that the couple had been dating for eight months and living together at the time of the assault.

“Look around her eyes,” Ellis testified when questioned about the red marks on the woman’s neck. “The redness is there too.”

Ellis denied assaulting the woman but acknowledged that they had been arguing before she left their residence, after telling him she wanted to go get more wine.

Defense attorney Robert Donaldson told the jury in his closing that if they had doubts, they should

acquit Ellis.

The defense attorney pointed out that Altoona police didn’t take any photos of the woman’s neck because responding officers didn’t see the redness. But police weren’t notified of the assault until more than two hours later.

The victim said she was afraid of Ellis because he previously told her not to call the police.

“He said he was going to have his cousin beat me up. He was going to have his people burn my house down,” she said.

The woman said her friend convinced her that the police had to be called.

Officers took photos, including one of the woman’s swollen leg and foot that she told them was the result of a Feb. 11 assault, when Ellis kicked her while wearing a steel-toe boot. She advised the jury that she still has an indentation in her leg.

Ellis denied assaulting the woman and accused her of excessive drinking.

“That’s not a result of me kicking her,” Ellis said when presented with the photo of the woman’s black-and-blue foot. “That’s a result of her falling down the stairs.”

Donaldson said he’ll look for appellate issues pending Ellis’ sentencing on Oct. 3. He said his client is probably looking at a state prison sentence in light of the strangulation conviction, a second-degree felony.

President Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle ordered a presentence investigation.

The victim, who was very nervous during testimony, didn’t return to the trial after she left the witness stand.

“That was the first time she had seen him since the incident,” Hausner said. “She just asked us to let her know the outcome.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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