For the first time in Brazos County history, Assistant District Attorneys used a new law to prosecute a man who had been continuously abusing girlfriends.
The case was tried under the Continuous Family Violence Law, which affects offenders charged with multiple counts of abuse in one year. Before this new law, family violence was considered a misdemeanor. The new law allowed a jury to convict 23-year-old Chad McFadden of a third degree felony.
“It started out as verbal and emotional abuse, some shoving. The next girlfriend it became more violent. Definite shoving, and hitting. The last girlfriend it became punching, black eyes, severe bruises…We wanted to stop it before it became broken bones or somebody being killed,” said Jessica Escue, Brazos County Assistant District Attorney.
Escue says McFadden worked part-time at a bar in Northgate while he took classes a Blinn College, before transferring to TCU. McFadden allegedly abused three girlfriends, including students at A&M, Blinn, and Tarrant County Junior College. McFadden claimed he was defending himself against attacks from his girlfriends.
Monday, a jury sentenced McFadden to eight years in prison due to the Continuous Family Violence Law.
“Under the old law, the maximum he could be sentenced to would be one year in the county jail. So there’s a huge difference between serial abusers before the law was passed and after the law was passed,” said Escue.
Escue says that under the old law, legislators found that many abusers would quickly bond out of jail with a misdemeanor charge, then immediately start abusing again. The new law allows multiple instances of abuse, within a twelve month period, to be prosecuted as a felony.
Defense attorneys for McFadden say the new law is prejudicial and should be re-examined. Attorney Craig Greaves said the defendant doesn’t have presumed innocence when prosecutors group more than one offense in a trial.
Assistant District Attorney Jessica Escue hopes this case will send a message to both abusers and their victims.
“I hope it will give victims the courage to come forward. To know that, if their abusers are consistent, that there are severe consequences for that. They’re not going to get out and come back into their lives. I hope it also sends a message to abusers that we don't tolerate that in Brazos County, and there will be tough consequences for continued violence,” said Escue.
McFadden also has a long history of poaching in Brazos County. The judge in this case stacked two additional years onto his prison sentence for unlawfully taking wildlife. In total, McFadden has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Defense attorneys say McFadden is planning to appeal the ruling.