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Former sheriff's deputy enters plea in assault case

MOAB — A former Grand County sheriff's deputy who seriously injured his wife during a domestic dispute last year pleaded guilty Tuesday to an assault charge, two days after his wife was arrested for allegedly assaulting him.

Austin Lynn Stubblefield's guilty plea to the class A misdemeanor charge will be held in abeyance for one year under the terms of a plea agreement with the Emery County Attorney's Office, which prosecuted the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

If Stubblefield completes all recommended treatment, stays out of trouble with the law and pays a $1,000 court fee, his case will be dismissed at the end of the 12-month term.

The case against Stubblefield stemmed from a Sept. 20 argument with his wife, Jennifer Katelynn Stubblefield.

Jennifer Stubblefield, 44, testified during her husband's preliminary hearing in November that she swung a laptop computer and an unplugged flat iron at him as the argument escalated. Her husband "appeared fearful" and was trying to get away from her, but also was calling her "a loser and a drunk," she testified.

When she knocked her husband's glasses off a dresser, Jennifer Stubblefield said he became angry. The next thing she remembered was waking up on the bathroom floor with her husband cleaning blood off her hands.

Two friends took the injured woman to Moab Regional Hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with a concussion, a broken nose and a fractured right eye socket. She also had cuts to her right ear that required 13 stitches to close and a chipped left front tooth, according to courtroom testimony.

Austin Stubblefield, 36, appeared to have cuts and scrapes on his face after the incident, but declined to talk to Moab police. He did reach out to a dispatcher, though, telling her he struck his wife in self-defense, investigators said.

Austin Stubblefield began working for the Grand County Sheriff's Office in March 2013. He was put on paid administrative leave following his arrest in September and later resigned.

Emery County prosecutor Brent Langston said Tuesday that Jennifer Stubblefield initially did not want her husband charged at all, but was comfortable with the plea agreement he was offered. The couple were still together as recently as Sunday, authorities said.

That's when Austin Stubblefield called dispatchers to report that he had been assaulted by his wife, according a Grand County Jail report. A sheriff's deputy found the couple waiting for him outside a home in the 3600 block of Spanish Valley Drive in Moab, the report states.

After talking with the couple, the deputy determined that Jennifer Stubblefield "attacked" her husband, "punching him in the face, kicking him and ripping his shirt." The alleged assault happened after Austin Stubblefield tried to stop his wife from driving away from the house, the deputy wrote.

The Stubblefields had both been drinking alcohol, the jail report states.

Austin Stubblefield had a number of scratches and abrasions on his face and chest, the collar of his shirt was torn, and there was evidence that his nose had been bleeding, the deputy wrote. He admitted he touched his wife's face briefly as he reached into the car to try to remove the keys from the ignition, the report states.

Jennifer Stubblefield confirmed that her husband made contact with the side of her face while reaching for the car keys, "but she didn't consider it purposeful," wrote the deputy, who noted that there was "no apparent injury or discoloration" to the woman's face.

Based on his interviews with the couple, and with two children who were at the home when the alleged incident happened, the deputy arrested Jennifer Stubblefield for investigation of assault and domestic violence in the presence of a child. She was later released from the Grand County Jail.

Prosecutors are still screening the case against Jennifer Stubblefield, who filed a request for a protective order Monday. A judge has temporarily granted that request and set a Feb. 17 hearing on matter.

Court records show that before the Stubblefields were married in August, he sought a protective order against her. The May 16 petition was granted on a temporary basis, but the judge dismissed it 12 days later at Austin Stubblefield's request.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com, Twitter: GeoffLiesik