EXCLUSIVE: It took a jury less than half a day to find an East Rutherford man not guilty of beating and threatening to kill his former girlfriend this afternoon.
The jury began deliberations just before noon today before announcing the acquittal of Chester J. Betts Jr., just after 3 p.m.
Betts, 45, covered his face with his hands and sobbed quietly as they read the several “not guilty” findings. His attorney, public defender Ian Silvera, smiled patted him on the shoulder.
Both left the courtroom without commenting.
Prosecutors accused Betts of beating the woman so badly that he broke her eye socket and knocked her out.
Betts contended that she slipped and rammed her head against a refrigerator during an argument.
Betts ( above, left ), an instructor at Berkeley College, was demonstrating for jurors last week what he says happened when he slipped himself and fell onto the floor, hitting his head and stopping the trial for a long recess.
Earlier in the trial, his former girlfriend testified that her injuries happened when he hit her in the right eye so hard that she blacked out. When she came to, she had two black eyes, a bloody nose, and a fractured orbital bone behind her right eye.
Her account was supported during the trial by two doctors — an emergency room physician from Hackensack University Medical Center who was the first one to treat her, and Dr. Martin Weinberg of Teaneck, an ophthalmologist who is also a consultant to the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners.
Responding to questions from Silvera ( above photo, right ), Weinberg testified that it was “medically impossible” for the woman’s injuries to have been caused by a flat surface such as a rounded refrigerator, as Betts claimed.
A blow-out fracture of the orbital bone, which rests behind the eyeball, could only happen if the eye were pushed backward “with a great deal of force, such as a fist,” the doctor said. A refrigerator could not get into the eye socket to make contact with the eye and cause such a fracture, he said.
Testifying for Betts were several character witnesses who spoke of his honesty and trustworthiness. Silvera contended that the woman concocted the brutality charges to foil Betts’ attempts to collect money she owed him.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Jessica Gomperts, meanwhile, told jurors that she still suffers from double vision, which Weinberg said she’ll most likely have the rest of her life. She also has three titanium pins in her eye, the prosecutor said.
“She now works two jobs, she went to school at night, she is supporting herself and her son,” Gomperts concluded. “She still has love in her heart for this defendant.”
Betts is charged with aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a knife for an unlawful purpose, possession of a weapon not appropriate for lawful use, and making terroristic threats to kill.
He remains free on $32,500 bail.
STORY / PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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