TRAVERSE CITY — A Traverse City man’s “horrendous” attack on his pregnant girlfriend warranted at least 19 months in prison, a local judge ruled.
Keith Robert Watson, 21, pleaded guilty in March to unlawful imprisonment and domestic violence. He stood before 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power on Friday for sentencing.
“This is not who I am and it will not happen again,” Watson told Power.
But Power found Watson’s actions gave no option other than a 19-month to 15-year prison sentence.
Watson’s girlfriend, 20, told Traverse City Police that Watson became upset with her pregnancy, struck her head and repeatedly in the abdomen, threatened her with guns and barricaded her inside a room for a stretch between Jan. 25 and 26, according to a police report.
Prosecutors originally sought to add a torture charge, but it didn’t stick when the case went over to circuit court.
Watson’s defense attorney Janet Mistele disputed the victim’s account of events. She said an emergency room report details no visible signs of injuries on the victim other than a ruptured eardrum.
“I think his version is much more consistent with the medical evidence that came to light,” she said.
Mistele called the incident “completely out of character” for Watson, based on his previously clean criminal record and statements from family, church members and employers. She said a mental health worker opined that Watson “just flipped.”
Grand Traverse County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg argued Watson acted sadistically and caused the victim to fear for her life and suffer psychological injury.
“What snapped in him that made him do this absolutely horrific thing to her?” she said.
Power called the attack “horrendous” and said he didn’t believe the victim’s injuries were consistent with Watson’s story.