Court of Appeals overturns assault conviction

Tonia Caldwell
Tonia Caldwell

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Court of Appeals has overturned the 2019 conviction of a Tennessee woman accused of assault in Pike County.

Tonia Caldwell, 47, of Sevierville, Tenn., was convicted of first-degree assault for a knife attack against Thomas Varney.

Varney testified that Caldwell and her 17-year-old daughter had broken into his home on May 7, 2018, in search of his Kentucky Derby winnings, and attacked him when they found him at home.

But Caldwell and her daughter testified that Varney had grabbed the girl when she knocked on his back door looking for a purse she had left behind on a previous visit. Caldwell testified that she went to rescue her daughter, and in the ensuing scuffle, she grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed him.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the judge in the case made a mistake when telling the jury they could find that Caldwell had no duty to retreat in protecting her daughter if she was in a place where she had a right to be. Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense had previously said that including that language could be confusing to the jury.

Caldwell was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Now, that conviction has been overturned and the case has been sent back to Pike County for a new trial.

Read the full opinion below: