By Michael R. Moser
A man with five children and one on the way told a Criminal Court judge Monday that he was pleading guilty to a lesser charge in a knife assault case because of his five children and because of a sixth one on the way.
Joshua Matthew Norton, 28, whose address on arrest in July 2012 was on Browntown Rd., was facing an attempted second-degree murder charge and alternate count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in a knife attack on Ryan Halmontaller, 28, of Randolph Rd., that took place in the city on July 10, 2012.
Norton pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated assault and received a six-year prison sentence at 30 percent with credit for about six months that he has already served.
Deputy District Attorney told Criminal Court Judge Leon Burns that the state's case — backed up by several witness statements — was that Halmontaller and Norton were at a residence on Darrell Ave. when the two got into a fight, after Halmontaller allegedly hit Norton's pregnant wife. At the time of the report, Crossville Police Ptl. A.J. Williams wrote that the fight was over some stolen DVD movies.
Witnesses said the fight started in the residence and poured out into the front yard where Halmontaller was getting the upper hand. When it appeared Norton had had enough, Halmontaller let go of him. Moments later, Norton produced a pocket knife and lashed out at Halmontaller, cutting his arm, back and neck.
Halmontaller was reportedly seriously injured and was rushed to Cumberland Medical Center for treatment of his wounds. Norton was arrested at the scene.
A tearful Norton told the court, "I'm sorry," during the plea hearing. But he also said he was only pleading guilty because the fear of being convicted on the original charge — and the lengthy sentence that goes with attempted second-degree murder — was great. For a long time, Norton said he pushed his attorney for a trial.
When the state's reduced offer was made to his attorney John Williams of Crossville about a week ago, Norton said, considering his children, the offer was too good to ignore.
McKenzie told the court that he had been in touch with the victim and his family and that they were aware of Monday's proceedings.
With credit for good behavior and other incentives, Norton may only serve another year or slightly less.