LONGVIEW — After listening to a recording in which Longview School Board member and former state Rep. Justin “JD” Rossetti asked his wife, Amber Rosewood, “What would you like me to break first?” and testimony from a detective who said Rossetti had lied during a police investigation, a jury of five men and one woman found Rossetti not guilty of fourth-degree domestic violence assault and third-degree malicious mischief.
At the end of the Jan. 27 trial in Cowlitz District Court, the jurors deliberated for about an hour before returning to the courtroom. The group of friends, family members and prominent Longview women who came to support Rosewood listened in stunned silence after the verdict, as Rossetti and his attorney Joe Daggy said they planned to ask Rosewood to reimburse about $4,000 in legal fees.
The verdict evoked strong emotions from both Rossetti — who asked to give a statement to the media and then gave a five-minute religious testimony in which he thanked God for being on his side during the trial and compared himself to Jesus — and from Rosewood’s supporters, one of whom delivered her own scorching speech to Rossetti before leaving the courtroom.
Rosewood opened a criminal case against Rossetti about two months after an Aug. 17 incident at their former home in Longview. Rosewood alleges that in the aftermath of an argument, Rossetti followed her in her room, wrested away a baseball bat that she had tried to use in self-defense, then hit her and destroyed glass window panes and a chandelier with the bat.
Rossetti has changed his story about that night and other instances of alleged abuse since Longview Police Det. Brandon McNew began investigating in September. In the version of events that he shared during the trial, Rossetti said Rosewood assaulted him with the bat and he had acted in self-defense by trying to pry it away from her.
In an unrelated court hearing in November, Rosewood successfully sought a restraining order against Rossetti for herself and her 15-year-old son, largely on the strength of a series of detailed emails in which Rossetti described himself as a “DV abuser” and apologized for locking Rosewood in a closet, spray-painting her face and slamming a car door on her legs, among other things.
However, jurors had to decide the criminal case based on whether the events of Aug. 17 met the legal definitions of assault and malicious mischief.
One major focus of the trial was a recording that Rosewood secretly made when she heard Rossetti climbing the stairs to the small room where she slept.
“I looked around and realized I didn’t really have a lot of time,” Rosewood said. “I hit record on my cell phone. I did it because things had been getting so bad that I was afraid he might kill me. If he did, I wanted to have proof.”
The roughly 10-minute-long recording is difficult to listen to. At first, both were calm. Rosewood repeatedly asked Rossetti to leave her room, while Rossetti pressured her to print and sign divorce documents.
“I’m hoping that you’ll leave my room and let me sleep,” Rosewood said at one point.
“No. That’s not what’s happening next,” Rossetti responded. “Pushing those buttons makes me angry. There’s nothing left that I can do tonight but make your life miserable… this is way better. I get way more satisfaction out of this.”
About halfway through, Rossetti taunted Rosewood by taking her phone, keys and purse. A moment later, the recording erupted into a series of disconcerting crashing and crunching noises. Rosewoods let out a bloodcurdling scream, and suddenly, became hysterical. After that, she can be heard screaming “I hate you!” and “I want to fucking kill you!” and begging Rossetti to get away from her.
The fighting starts again. You can hear her panting close to her phone.
But some of the elements of the recording that were visibly distressing to the jurors and others in the courtroom didn’t translate into a “preponderance of evidence” of assault or malicious mischief.
Rossetti denied the couple argued on the night in question during a November police interview and implied to the detective that he had not even been in town that night.
During the day long trial in Cowlitz District Court, jurors considered an emotionally charged recording, along with testimony from Rossetti, Rosewood, a police officer, and Longview Police Detective Brandon McNew.
The emotionally charged trial evoked strong reactions from several people. While waiting for the judge and attorneys to return from a private meeting after the verdict, one of Rosewood’s supporters, Kalei LeFave had strong words for Rossetti and his father.