COVINGTON—A 45-year-old Covington man abruptly pled guilty as charged to aggravated second degree battery and second degree kidnapping in the middle of his trial Wednesday, shortly after prosecutors showed photos of the badly-bruised girlfriend the man had tortured in a drunken stupor in 2014.
Judge Allison Penzato sentenced the defendant, as part of the plea agreement, to 15 years on the battery charge and double-billed him on the kidnapping charge with a 60-year sentence, with both to be served concurrently. Penzato also granted the defendant’s request to apologize to his victim, who in September 2014 began living with Temple in a secluded guest house off Highway 1082 near Covington, where the crime occurred.
“I drink. I pass out. Didn’t know nothing,” Temple said through heaving sobs. “Didn’t mean to hurt you… Didn’t mean to hurt none of y’all…I love all of y’all. I’m sorry for my ways.”
Temple faced his former girlfriend, who sat stoically, next to two other women—the one who had helped her finally escape the abuse on Nov. 23 last year and the co-owner of the property where Temple lived and worked as a “cowboy,” which also was his nickname.
In their opening statement and questioning of witnesses, Assistant District Attorneys Jay Adair and William Macke painted a picture of the crime, which began on Nov. 22 last year when Temple drank too much, got angry for some reason and took out his rage on his girlfriend. Temple gashed her head with a flashlight and hit her kneecap repeatedly with a candlestick holder, breaking a bone in her knee. He also put a dog collar around her neck and hooked her to the back of his truck. When he released her from the collar and told her to run, he tried to run over her with his truck. Eventually, he cut off her bloody clothes, forced her to shower in scalding water, and made her clean up the blood. Throughout the ordeal, Temple repeatedly threatened to kill the victim and her then 7-year-old daughter.
The next day, when a neighbor showed up at the house unexpectedly, the victim managed to get her alone momentarily and indicated that she needed help. The two women concocted a plan for the victim’s escape, and both of them spent the night in a Covington hotel. Initially, the victim didn’t want to involve police, but the neighbor said she’d “had enough” and called the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office the next day. The two women had returned to the house to retrieve some of the victim’s belongings and were surprised to find Temple there. He threatened both of them.
The arresting deputy and neighbor both testified before the trial recessed for lunch. When the trial resumed, Temple’s attorney, Ernie Barrow, explained to Penzato that during a frank discussion with his client over the break, Temple spontaneously said he wanted to change his plea to guilty and spare his victim the burden of having to endure the trial. Penzato questioned Temple extensively to assure that he understood what was happening and that the decision to plead guilty was his own. During the questioning, Temple said he’d had only a sixth grade education but that he took care of his own affairs and understood the charges and plea agreement.
While addressing his victim, Temple also apologized and professed his love for his mother, who sat behind him and wept throughout the plea hearing. Temple said he had been “too drunk and too hard-headed to ask for help.”