5/15/2018 7:30:00 AM Vilas County jury finds professional fighter Schuman guilty of domestic abuse Some battery charges dismissed
Abigail Bostwick/Lakeland Times
MMA fighter Frank Schuman had a five-day trial last week in Vilas County Court in which he was found guilty of years of battery against his wife.
Abigail Bostwick/Lakeland Times
MMA fighter Frank Schuman was found guilty of years of battery against his wife during the five-day trial last week in Vilas County Court.
Abigail Bostwick Of The Lakeland Times
A jury of 12 found Frank Schuman guilty of years of battery against his wife in Vilas County after a five-day trial last week.
Schuman, 25, Lac du Flambeau, is a professional mixed martial arts fighter and past LdF tribal police officer. He was arrested in May 2016 on seven counts of felony battery, two counts of intimidating a victim, recklessly endangering safety and obstructing an officer, many with domestic abuse and weapons enhancers.
The criminal complaint noted he strangled, kicked, punched and threatened his former wife with a loaded AR-15. Sexual assault and a potential extramarital affair were also indicated during court proceedings.
The trial accounted for years of abuse against Carli Bergquist, 23, Woodruff. The couple remains in divorce proceedings.
Lac du Flambeau Tribal Police were called to the area fitness center in May 2016 where Schuman worked. It was at that time Bergquist reported her husband had been abusing her for more than eight years.
According to the criminal complaint, Bergquist told police an argument occurred earlier that month where Schuman retrieved an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle and waved it around, pointing it at her and hitting her in the eye socket with the barrel. She also said Schuman dragged her by the hair, threw her against a propane tank, and dragged her to a swampy area. It wasn't until a visitor arrived that he later let her go, the victim stated.
Bergquist said when she tried to leave, Schuman ripped wires from the vehicle so the headlights would not operate. He also injured her wrist and kicked her in the ribs, she said.
LdF Police documented bruises to Bergquist's body at the time, noting Bergquist had stated they were inflicted by Schuman.
Assistant attorney general Robert Kaiser called more than 10 medical witnesses last Tuesday and Wednesday, all who had seen Bergquist for injuries over the years.
Schuman allegedly knocked Bergquist unconscious in 2012, according to testimony Wednesday. She also suffered several concussions over the years, defense noted.
"'That's what happens when you get mouthy,'" Schuman had told Bergquist at the time, according to statements from Bergquist's friend Alicia Berray.
Berray told the court she was residing in Rhinelander with the couple at the time of a battery incident. She stated she came home to find Bergquist on the floor and took her to the hospital.
Justine Routheaux, Bergquist's sister, told jurors she observed Schuman holding Bergquist by the throat, banging her head against the wall during a holiday gathering in 2010 with a child in her arms.
Bergquist's coworkers also took notice of injuries through the years, a coworker testified Tuesday.
Bergquist testified last Wednesday and again Friday, taking jurors through the years of abuse she said began when the couple were teenage sweethearts.
"I told him to just go ahead and kill me, if that's what he planned," Bergquist said on the stand of when Schuman allegedly threatened her with the AR-15, a wedding gift she had given to Schuman.
"'You don't deserve the decency,'" Kaiser said Schuman told Bergquist at that time. "She wasn't even worth the cost of a bullet to him."
That was the same time frame as when Schuman allegedly took a cell phone from Bergquist after she dialed 911. The call was later said to have been made by the couple's baby.
Bergquist said she never told anyone all those years as Schuman had threatened to take her children away and divorce her in Tribal Court. Schuman is a LdF trial member, Bergquist is not.
'I never laid a hand on my wife'
The defense, led by attorney Steve Lucareli, argued Schuman never hurt his former wife and she was making up the accusations to get back at him for leaving her in a divorce. He cited credibility issues.
"What we have here is a very angry woman. The only way she saw to soften her pain was to cause Mr. Schuman greater pain," Lucareli said. "An eye for an eye leaves both blind."
Lucareli stated several witnesses disliked Schuman. He told jurors testimony provided by the medical professionals only proved Bergquist had suffered injuries, not that they had been inflicted by Schuman. Furthermore, he added, Bergquist never told doctors she was being domestically abused. She noted various accidents, such as falls down the steps or trips while walking.
"These were two teens, two children themselves unequipped to finish the lives they started," Lucareli said.
LdF Tribal Police officer Jacob Reiner testified that when he arrived at the call at the fitness center, Schuman told him Bergquist had shown up "...freaked out and told him he had to talk now or she would be putting him away for eight years."
Reiner noted he observed bruising on Bergquist's arms that day, and she was "...upset and hard to understand."
Schuman's story counter-acted Bergquist's version. When he was asked to display how he allegedly accidentally injured Bergquist while moving his belongings from the family home while carrying the AR-15, Bergquist left the courtroom in tears.
Wednesday, Schuman's sister, Santana Chapman, 29, said she was not aware Bergquist was being abused, despite them being close friends for many years and partaking in the same family events. Chapman indicated Bergquist, after making her statement to LdF police, told her "... I'm going to ruin his life.'"
Thursday, members of Schuman's family testified they never saw him hurt Bergquist. Schuman's mother, father and babysitter all testified they had not seen Schuman inflict pain to Bergquist over the course of their relationship, which began when the couple was 14 and 15 in high school. At 16, Bergquist became pregnant with their first child.
Lance Chapman, Schuman's cousin, took the stand where he noted he took classes with the couple where they both partook in "light and playful grappling," possibly leading to the bruising seen on Bergquist.
Schuman himself took the stand Thursday, making note several times, "I never laid a hand on my wife." He became emotional when he spoke of his firstborn child, and how important it was to become a father after an unstable upbringing.
"I did not hit my wife," he told the courtroom. "I would never lay a hand on my wife under any circumstance ... I would not joke about it."
Schuman explained a hole in the home wall - counter-reporting what Bergquist reported of him punching his elbow through when threatening her. His and Bergquists' stories also contradicted in how Bergquist came to be bruised and who was changing the lights in the vehicle. Towards the end of the marriage, a text message between Schuman and Bergquist indicated they would go to counseling and try to work things out, and Schuman would no longer abuse Bergquist.
There was significant debate over who sent Facebook messages, including some appearing to be from Schuman's account but written as though from Bergquist to Melanie Mitchell of Lac du Flambeau.
Mitchell told the court she overheard Bergquist say at a barbecue to Schuman, "'I will bury you. You are nothing without me.'" It was noted Schuman and Mitchell had a relationship in late May 2016.
Kaiser argued Schuman never once noted in messages or texts when Bergquist accused him of abusing her that he did not, in fact, abuse her.
"This whole (abusive) relationship didn't get made up in 2016," Kaiser told jurors. "He could have stopped (abusing her) but he didn't. He chose to do it again and again."
Lucareli, in what he noted as likely to be his last jury trial, told jurors what they were looking at was a jigsaw puzzle.
"We've got a puzzle here with a lot of pieces missing," he noted. "The pieces don't make sense."
In Bergquist's defense, Kaiser said, "Carli Bergquist had a dream. To live a romantic life of high school sweethearts raising their daughters. That dream ... was punched, beaten, kicked, strangled and finally driven out of her at the point of a firearm ... she tried and tried and tried to make her marriage work."
The jury of five men and seven women went into deliberation Friday just after 5 p.m. One alternate was sent home. They came to a verdict around 1 a.m. Saturday morning. Schuman was found guilty of three misdemeanor battery domestic abuse with a dangerous weapon charges. Schuman was found not guilty on all other charges, which were dismissed. Schuman's bond is continued and a sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.