EVANSTON — An Evanston man with no prior criminal history pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and battery and was sentenced in Third District Court last week. John Rasmussen was sentenced to 8-10 years in prison for hitting his wife in the head with a hammer in July of 2020; however, that sentence was suspended in part and split in part. Through a plea agreement with the Uinta County Attorney’s office, Rasmussen was sentenced to one year in the Uinta County Jail and three years of supervised probation. With credit for the one year he had spent in jail since the incident occurred, Rasmussen was released on Friday, July 23, the day of sentencing.
Rasmussen was arrested on July 6, 2020, after police officers were summoned to the Rasmussen home when a woman called 911 to report she had been struck by an object. When they arrived, Evanston Police Department officers found Rasmussen’s wife confused and with injuries to her head. Rasmussen subsequently told officers he had hit her in the head “two or three times” with a hammer because he “felt like it” and was “tired” of taking care of her.
In court last week, the victim spoke and said she did not agree with the plea deal because she was afraid Rasmussen would try to hurt her again. Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson-Kallas spoke in favor of the plea deal, although she recognized the victim did not agree with it.
Howieson-Kallas said the plea deal was appropriate for a number of reasons. Rasmussen had initially been charged with attempted murder in addition to aggravated assault and battery; however, Howieson-Kallas pointed out the state would have to prove that Rasmussen intended to kill his wife on the attempted murder charge and there wasn’t significant evidence to back up that intent. She also noted that Rasmussen is 69 years old and has never had any other criminal history at all and that he and his wife had been married for a considerable period of time in what had been a loving relationship in which Rasmussen was his wife’s long-time caregiver.
Howieson-Kallas said the state had no desire to minimize the “extraordinarily violent” nature of the crime; however, the state did not believe that Rasmussen presented a continued danger to the victim.
Rasmussen’s public defender, Kent Brown, agreed and said that the crime was an “anomaly” that was “out of character” for Rasmussen, who in every other respect had lived an “honorable life.” Brown said every indication was that Rasmussen was a frustrated caregiver who “just snapped” on that particular day and that Rasmussen had been very open about what happened and had claimed that he himself didn’t understand his motivation for hitting his wife.
Third District Court Judge Joseph Bluemel stated the record shows that Rasmussen had been sick with COVID-19 prior to the incident and wondered about the possibility of that playing a role in violent behavior that was completely out of character. Bluemel said the victim’s written impact statement indicated the two had been married for 17 years, with no fighting or arguing and no indication that Rasmussen would ever commit a violent crime.
In addition to the time served and the three years of probation, Rasmussen was ordered to have no contact with the victim and to pay $775 in attorney and court fees. The attempted murder charge was dismissed by the state as part of the plea agreement.