Near-death survivor convicted of assault

01:49, Oct 16 2009

A Masterton man who achieved a degree of fame through a near-death experience last year was today convicted of assaulting his former partner.

John Edmonds' heart stopped beating for 25 minutes after a collapse in November.

After his recovery he fielded requests to share his story from a United States radio show, an author and the New York Times.

At sentencing in Wellington District Court today, lawyer Louise Elder pressed for Edmonds to be discharged without conviction.

He was now a sickness beneficiary, and the only way he could make money was by capitalising on the interest generated by his survival, she said.

A conviction could prevent him travelling to interviews or speaking engagements overseas.

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But Judge Stephen Harrop said Edmonds had three previous convictions dating back to 1986, including one for assault.

These would likely impact on any travel plans, regardless of whether a fresh conviction was added, he said.

He convicted Edmonds and sentenced him to six months supervision for assault with intent to injure and fined him $500 in emotional harm reparation.

He was also convicted of intentional damage to his former partner's paintings and fined $1200 reparation.

On August 5 this year, Edmonds had visited the home of his on-again off-again partner Sarah Alexander, 33, an amateur artist.

The pair were getting along until Edmonds received text messages from one of his former partners, Judge Harrop said.

Ms Alexander asked to look at his phone and was annoyed to see who the messages were from.

She snapped the phone - which Edmonds had borrowed - and this made him snap as well, Judge Harrop said.

"You got very angry and you punched one of her paintings two or three times."

She began pushing him towards the door, and on the way out he punched another painting.

"You then punched her a number of times in the head and face."

Ms Alexander told police Edmonds had kicked her about four times in the legs as she collapsed under his blows.

Edmonds' lawyer Louise Elder did not hide her contempt for "the press" today, telling the court a Wairarapa Times-Age interview with Ms Alexander following the attack, which ran on the front page, had been "a huge punishment in itself".

She said Edmonds was a high profile member of the community and other cases like his were heard every day and went "entirely under the radar".

It had a huge impact on Edmonds, and his teenaged children had received a barrage of text messages "which destroyed them", Ms Elder said.

Since his heart attack, Edmonds could no longer work in the fitness industry and was now a sickness beneficiary, she said.

Judge Harrop noted a discharge without conviction was opposed by police and by Ms Alexander who, in her victim impact statement, said she felt "gutted" by Edmonds' continued denial of what happened and the lack of an apology.

While Judge Harrop was not willing to waive a conviction, he did accept, "the whole experience has achieved some deterrence to you and others".

NZPA