After a jury found him not guilty of murder, reckless endangerment and assault charges in March, a California man is facing two second-degree felony charges of false or inconsistent material statements.
Elbert John Paule, 20 of Chula Vista, California, was charged with first-degree felony murder, second-degree felony obstruction of justice, class A misdemeanor reckless endangerment and class B misdemeanor assault after shooting and killing 26-year-old Dominique Barnett at his Orem apartment in February 2019.
Arrest documents alleged Paule had thrown the weapon — a 12-gauge shotgun — off the apartment balcony and fled to California where he turned himself over to police. The shooting took place in front of Barnett’s fiancé.
Prosecutors filed the charges against Paule in March 2019. The California local entered a plea of not guilty for each charge the following month.
In September, an eight-day trial — from March 2 through March 13 — was scheduled at 4th District Court in Provo, and after seven days of evidence and cross examination, a jury found Paule not guilty of all but one second-degree felony charge of obstruction of justice.
District Judge Lynn Davis sentenced Paule, in June, to 1-15 years in Utah State Prison with credit for the 487 days he had already served as well as a $10,000 fine. Davis suspended the total fine, instead requiring Paule to pay a $793 fine and $1,994.55 in restitution, with interest.
One of Paule’s defense attorneys, Jeanne Campbell, said Adult Parole and Probation made a recommendation to the court — based on the jury’s decision and Paule’s criminal record — that Paule should be sentenced to probation, suspending any prison or jail sentence.
“He should’ve been placed on probation,” Campbell said in a previous interview with the Daily Herald. “He should be out by now.”
The Utah County Attorney’s Office filed two second-degree felony charges for false or inconsistent material statements in March, after the acquittal. On Wednesday, Paule was bound over for the two felony charges by Judge Davis in the 4th District Court.
In a press release published by the Utah County Attorney’s Office on Friday, officials alleged the charges stemmed from the testimony Paule had given during the March trial.
During his testimony, Paule told the jury he heard someone knocking on his apartment door for several minutes before retrieving his shotgun. Without looking through the peephole, Paule told the court he stood in the kitchen when Barnett opened the door and began to enter the apartment with a knife.
Fearing for his life, Paule said he shot Barnett in self defense.
Barnett’s fiancée, who was present with their 6-month-old daughter, told the court during her testimony that she and Barnett were standing in the hall when Paule opened the apartment door and quickly shot Barnett while he was standing in the hallway. She also said Barnett never had a knife.
During a preliminary hearing on Sept. 16, prosecutors provided the court with forensic analysis from blood splatter experts who supported Barnett’s fiancée’s testimony that he was shot in the hallway, according to the press release. A witness who was inside the apartment during the incident also provided a statement.
Based on the evidence provided during the preliminary hearing, the judge over the case determined there was enough probable cause to believe Paule had made false material statements during his testimony.
In a previous interview, one of Paule’s defense attorneys, Rudy Bautista, said Paule should not be guilty of obstruction of justice in the first place, adding that the new charges against Paule are unsuitable.
Bautista asserted prosecutors are trying to argue that their witnesses are more truthful than Paule, which a jury already decided on in March when he was acquitted of murder.
“This is bad form on the Utah County Attorney’s Office and inappropriate,” Bautista said in a statement. “Are they now going to charge a rape complainant when the result is an acquittal for being untruthful? Or every time they lose a trial? Dangerous precedent coming from an office in which the county attorney wants to be our next attorney general.”
Additionally, Campbell called the new charges filed by the Utah County Attorney’s Office “malicious prosecution.”
An arraignment date has been set for Dec. 2.