Jurors agreed with a 64-year-old Hastings man’s assertion of self-defense in the use of a machete to injure another man in 2018.
A jury found David Wilsey not guilty of charges of first-degree assault and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, each a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison, on Thursday following testimony over two days in Adams County District Court.
Wilsey took the stand Thursday morning to explain his actions leading up to the incident that caused Curt Erickson, formerly of Fairfield, to lose a pinky finger and full use of his hands.
Wilsey testified he was upstairs in his bedroom at 735 S. Baltimore Ave. with Bernadette Otts when he heard a loud pounding at the door. He described their relationship as friends with benefits.
Wilsey put on a pair of boxer shorts and went down to the main floor, where his two pre-teen daughters and a friend of theirs had been in the living room watching television. He said he was scared when he didn’t find them there.
“They were in the basement, all huddled in a blanket and crying,” he said.
Wilsey said the pounding on the door continued and he went back upstairs to put on pants and shoes. He also picked up a machete that he had taken with him on a recent trip to California. The machete normally was kept at a local tattoo parlor.
Otts told him it was Erickson at the door, because she recognized his voice as he was yelling for her. Wilsey said he knew that Otts had been engaged to Erickson, but thought she had broken up with him.
He said he had only met Erickson once before. He did notice Erickson had been wearing a knife at the time, but admitted he didn’t know if Erickson was armed during the incident. He later discovered the man had a firearm in his pocket.
Wilsey testified he went back to the main floor and yelled through the door several times to tell Erickson to leave.
Erickson kept kicking on the door until Wilsey heard a loud crack as the door frame broke around the deadlock.
“He wouldn’t quit,” Wilsey said. “He was coming in.”
Wilsey testified he opened the door and Erickson was there with his arms raised. He saw something glimmering in Erickson’s hand and thought it could be a knife. He said he used the machete to block Erickson’s arm coming into the residence. He also struck the other hand before Erickson turned away from the threshold.
Erickson testified Wednesday that after the door opened, Wilsey walked up to him from down the hall with his hands at his side. He said Wilsey then raised his left hand and Erickson raised his arms in defense. Wilsey swung down at Erickson, cutting his right hand severely. Then, Wilsey swung multiple times, cutting Erickson’s left arm three times.
Deputy Adams County Attorney Dale Callahan said in his closing statement that most of the facts in the case weren’t in dispute. The crux of the case revolved around whether Wilsey was acting in self-defense at the time.
Callahan said Erickson had been yelling out Otts’ name, but there wasn’t a reason to think Wilsey himself was in imminent physical danger, one of the requirements for self-defense. Another is the reasonableness of his actions. He noted that Wilsey never tried to call police for help, even though the threat was outside.
“If he thought there was a threat, he should have called police,” Callahan said. “Given the situation, opening the door and striking with a machete isn’t a reasonable response.”
But defense attorney Jim Wagoner of Grand Island said that Wilsey’s response was reasonable because the police wouldn’t have arrived in time.
“I think it was reasonable under his belief of the circumstances,” Wagoner said. “The defendant is entitled to protect himself.”