A Flowery Branch man avoided a life sentence but still received a lengthy prison term for holding a former girlfriend against her will and beating her.
Hardy Joe Day, 45, was convicted of kidnapping, false imprisonment and aggravated battery Friday in Hall County Superior Court following more than five hours of jury deliberations over two days.
The jury of seven men and five women found Day guilty of the lesser offense of kidnapping rather than the original charge of kidnapping with bodily injury, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Judge Jason Deal, calling the facts of the case "disturbing" and saying it "deserves a hefty sentence," ordered Day to serve 20 years in prison.
Noting the mandatory minimum sentence that Day was facing if convicted of kidnapping with bodily injury, the judge said he felt the jury delivered a "fair verdict in this case."
Day showed no visible reaction to the jury's verdict.
Day was accused of holding a girlfriend at knifepoint inside his Chevy Blazer on a dirt road in South Hall in July 2007, ramming her head against the dashboard repeatedly and dragging her by her hair along the road after she twice jumped from the slow-moving car to escape his attacks.
But the jury acquitted Day of using a knife in the assault, citing on the verdict form "poor investigation and a lack of evidence" to support a charge of aggravated assault.
According to testimony, a knife was found in Day's truck, but test results for the victim's blood were negative. Day allegedly tossed the knife he used from the truck and it was never recovered by authorities.
The victim had superficial puncture wounds on her shoulders that a medical expert said were consistent with a stabbing. She testified Day pressed the knife so hard against her it left the wounds.
Jurors viewed several photographs of the victim's injuries during the weeklong trial, including severe lacerations and bruising along her back, head and backside.
Both the victim and Day took the witness stand during the trial.
Deal told Day during sentencing that he found Day's testimony that the woman sustained the injuries from falling from the truck while under the influence of drugs improbable.
"I just did not find your testimony credible," Deal told the defendant. "I think the jury realized that (the victim) didn't receive all those injuries from falling out of a vehicle, and it doesn't matter if someone is a drug user or thief or liar or saint, no one has the right to beat on someone else."