Officer says he didn’t assault wife
A Fort Dodge police officer accused of assaulting his wife will learn his fate today after a judge heard arguments in the case Thursday afternoon.
Jody S. Chansler, 41, of Fort Dodge, has been charged with domestic abuse assault in connection with an incident that happened early in the morning on Aug. 13. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.
It’s alleged that Chansler assaulted his wife by knocking her to the ground in their home during an argument that began the previous night.
Chansler, a Fort Dodge Police Department officer for 12 years, has been on paid administrative leave since the charges were filed Aug. 13.
During his trial, Chansler took the stand in his own defense. He admitted that he and his wife got into an argument that started because of an unknown number he found on her cell phone.
“I asked her if I could look at the cell phone and she handed it to me,” Chansler testified Thursday. “I went into the contacts and when I couldn’t find whose number it was, I asked and she said it was hers.”
Chansler testified that his wife had bought a new cell phone under her own name.
During questioning by his attorney, Derek Johnson, Chansler said he put the phone in his pocket and told his wife he wouldn’t give it back to her until she revealed who she was calling. As he moved the phone between pockets, Chansler said his wife tried grabbing for it.
“She was just grabbing at me, trying to get the phone back,” he said, adding that he was injured during the process.
Johnson presented evidence to Magistrate William Habhab that showed what Chansler called an “abrasion” on his arm, a scratch in the inside of his left wrist and a mark on his foot.
At one point during the early morning hours, Chansler said he tried to leave the house so he could get into his backyard. He testified that he didn’t want to wake up their children.
“She was in between myself and the door,” he said. “She lunges at me to get her phone and got knocked down.”
Chansler said while their bodies made physical contact and “bumped together,” he denied hitting or slapping her, though he did admit he was intoxicated during the argument.
“Do you recall the whole thing?” Johnson asked him.
“Yes,” Chansler said.
“No. Just embarrassing.”
He went on to say to his attorney and the court that he wished it didn’t get to this point.
“If you could do it again, would you have handed her the cell phone?” Johnson asked.
“Absolutely,” Chansler said. “I wish I would have gave it back and left.”
“I didn’t assault her,” he added.
Assistant Kossuth County Attorney Stephanie Miller, who is prosecuting the case due to a conflict of interest with the Webster County attorney’s office, testified that Chansler’s wife had been assaulted and was hurt because of his actions.
Robin Cobb, an emergency room nurse at Trinity Regional Medical Center, said she examined Chansler’s wife after the alleged assault took place. Cobb testified that Chansler’s wife had scratches on her wrist and an injury to her collarbone.
“She said that she was pushed and shoved,” Cobb said, adding that she identified her husband as the one who hurt her, but didn’t refer to him by name.
Special Agent Ray Fiedler, of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, took pictures of the marks on Chansler’s wife. He testified that he saw red marks on her wrist, a slight bruise on her collarbone, and redness on her right arm.
Miller also called DCI Special Agent Jon Turbett to testify. Turbett, who works out of Dubuque, interviewed Chansler on Aug. 13 in the parking lot of Crossroads Mall in Fort Dodge.
“Did you consider self-defense in this case?” Miller asked Turbett.
“Yes,” Turbett said, but added it was decided to charge Chansler because of his actions.
“This could have been prevented by giving the phone back,” he testified. “It was all in the defendant’s hands.”
Chansler’s wife did not testify.
Miller said Chansler’s words and actions prove his guilt.
“The evidence shows that Jody Chansler was going to get through that door regardless of what happened,” she said. “He had control over the situation. He did what he wanted to do.”
Johnson said Miller’s evidence doesn’t prove Chansler assaulted his wife.
“There’s no evidence he just sat down and pushed her down or struck her,” Johnson said. “He was in retreat and any contact was incidental.”
Habhab said he will issue a written ruling today.