A Portage man was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison on Tuesday for felony domestic abuse, with little in the way of an apology during his appearance in Columbia County Circuit Court.
Justin Blanchard, 32, returned before Judge Alan White, following conviction on Aug. 17 on charges of felony domestic battery and domestic disorderly conduct. Blanchard was acquitted of a third and more serious charge of strangulation.
“This wasn’t a first-time incident,” said Blanchard’s former girlfriend, with whom he has a 3-year-old daughter, referring to the March 3 incident. “There has been a long history of domestic violence between Justin and myself. It is hard for me to single out just one incident, because it had been going on for 3½ years.”
After meeting in June 2013, the two began living together and were residing in an East Emmett Street apartment when on March 23 the Portage Police Department received a report of a domestic incident. According to the criminal complaint, the woman told police that during an argument, Blanchard grabbed her by the throat and squeezed, and that she had been too frightened to report it until 20 days later.
The event was reportedly witnessed by the couple’s young daughter, a fact taken into consideration by the court as an aggravating factor.
Blanchard was released from state custody in a previous case on March 22, the woman told the court, at which point she began attempting to contact a local women’s shelter, fearing for her life.
“I know that the end of an abusive relationship is the most dangerous,” she said. “The honeymoon periods are shorter and shorter.”
District Attorney Jane Kohlwey highlighted the gravity of the case, saying that it could arguably be seen as the most important kind of case in preventing a homicide. Kohlwey then went on to list Blanchard’s previous convictions from an arson case when he was still a juvenile, to cases in which he was convicted of domestic disorderly conduct and strangulation, involving the same woman.
While Blanchard was in Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility for domestic abuse treatment in his most recent case, he sent letters to the victim. Kohlwey read the letters to the court Tuesday, apologizing to those in the room for the obscenity involved.
“I know you have been breaking the rules and you will pay for them when I get home,” Blanchard wrote. “You are not allowed to go out anywhere without me. You are not allowed to talk to other men and you know the rest. If you don’t, write me and I will tell you. You are mine to do with as I please. You are to obey me. If I don’t have you, I just want to go to prison.”
Blanchard’s mother spoke on his behalf, telling the court, “This is a toxic relationship and we just want to move on.”
Telling White that the woman was “just as guilty” and had bailed Blanchard out of jail, she said, “Justin wants to move on, we as a family want to move on, but we don’t leave one behind.”
Blanchard told the court that he never denied what he had done to his former girlfriend and was “very sorry for the things that had happened to her,” wishing her and her family the best.
“This is a case where I have looked very hard and haven’t been able to find much of any mitigating circumstances that would tend to make me believe that Mr. Blanchard is a person who deserves any kind of a break here,” White said.
White ordered Blanchard to prison, where he has been serving sentences stemming from revoked probation, to serve the maximum sentence possible.
“You have been an unproductive citizen, you are a criminal and you belong behind bars — that is my take,” White said. “It’s hard to send someone to prison, I’ve had to do it many times in 11 years, but I will tell you Mr. Blanchard, I have no problem with doing this because I believe that you deserve that punishment.”