A Crawford man who broke a bone in his wife’s face, choked her until she blacked out and then made himself a sandwich was sentenced to 40 years in prison Wednesday.
Gabriel Dwain Hall’s first trial on an aggravated assault family violence charge ended last month in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of finding him guilty.
This week, jurors in Waco’s 54th State District Court deliberated about five hours over two days before convicting the 42-year-old Hall of the lesser charge of aggravated assault. The jury deliberated about 30 minutes before determining punishment for Hall, which also included a $4,000 fine.
The family violence designation bumped the second-degree felony charge to a first-degree felony, making Hall’s potential range of punishment from five to 99 years in prison or life. Finding him guilty of the lesser charge would have reduced his conviction to a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
However, because of Hall’s extensive criminal record, prosecutors Tiffany Clark and Staci Scaman filed enhanced charges against him, pushing the charge back up to a first-degree felony.
“We are so incredibly thankful for the hard work that this jury put in to listening to our case,” Clark said. “It’s clear that our jurors understand the impact that domestic violence has on the family and the community. By their verdict and their sentence, they showed this victim that they believe her and they showed McLennan County that losing control and assaulting a family member is unacceptable. We hope this brings a sense of safety and security to our victim and gives her peace from the chaos.”
In closing arguments, Scaman suggested a 32-year sentence to the jury, a recommendation derived from adding the ages of Hall’s son and daughter. She asked jurors to consider giving Hall’s children at least that long away from him for their own safety and well-being.
The jury’s punishment verdict was a bit unusual because it was more than prosecutors asked for but came after Hall’s 18-year-old daughter testified during the punishment phase that she feared what he might do when he is freed from prison and that she worried his sentence might not be long enough.
Hall, who has three felony convictions for possession of cocaine, one for burglary of a habitation and misdemeanor convictions for evading arrest and DWI, must serve at least a quarter of his sentence before he can be considered for parole. He will be given credit for the 18 months he spent in jail awaiting trial, officials said.
“We are disappointed in the assessment of 40 years, but we respect the jury’s decision,” said Hall’s attorney, Phil Martinez. “We will look at a possible appeal, but we are not sure at this time. It was a difficult case, I think, from both sides.”
Clark and Scaman offered Hall a 10-year plea bargain after the mistrial last month. Hall rejected it.
Hall, who operated a house leveling and moving and carpentry business, admitted assaulting his wife of 20 years, Shannon Hall, in February 2018, but testified he did so in self-defense after she pulled a knife from her car.
Shannon Hall, the mother of Gabriel Hall’s two children, testified at both trials that she decided to leave him after 20 years of marriage and loaded up her car. Once he realized she was gone, Gabriel Hall convinced her to meet him at an abandoned restaurant parking lot in Waco.
She said Hall pulled open the car door and was screaming at her. While he was upset that she was leaving him, she said he really was mad that she had taken the car that he claimed he paid for. She was afraid and grabbed a pocket knife from her car, and Hall backhanded her, fracturing the orbital socket around her eye, she said.
Gabriel Hall reached for the car keys, and they struggled. Sometime during the fight, her finger was cut by the knife, she testified.
Hall forced her into his car and he drove her home, continuing to assault her, she said. He punched her in the face, stomped on her thigh and choked her until she blacked out. She said when she woke up, Hall was making a sandwich in the kitchen.
In punishment testimony, Hall’s mother, who is a minister; his father, a retired teacher; and his two sisters, who both are teachers, all testified that Hall grew up in a stable, loving household. They said he was a bright honor student and a talented trumpet player, earning a music scholarship to Tarleton State University.
Hall’s mother said he has “brought other inmates to God” during his 18 months of incarceration.
In prosecution testimony, Hall’s 18-year-old daughter said she loves her father but told the jury she is scared of what he might do when he gets out of prison.
She testified she took a girl trick-or-treating in 2016 and Hall became angry because he did not like the girl’s parents. He dragged her and her mother out of the car and forcefully shoved them both into his car, she said. She said her father repeatedly threatened to kill her mother.