By: Joshua Vaughn

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, PA – Police have charged a Southampton Township man under a new law aimed at providing harsher punishments for incidents of domestic violence.

Michael Anthony Woods, 25, was charged Wednesday with felony strangulation — a new law that went into effect at the end of December — misdemeanor simple assault and summary harassment after Pennsylvania State Police say he assaulted two women, choking one woman to the point that she passed out. Police said Woods was intoxicated when he and another person opened the rear door of a vehicle the victims were in and got in. One of the women had previously had a relationship with Woods and he began using obscenities and making sexual advances toward her, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Pennsylvania State Police.

Woods did not get out of the vehicle when he was told to and demanded the women take him to his mother’s home in Southampton Township, according to police.

As the vehicle approached the development where his home was located, Woods began hitting and choking his ex-girlfriend in the back seat, police said.

Woods dragged the woman out of the vehicle by her hair and hood of her coat and continued to assault her, according to the affidavit.

During the assault police said Woods choked the woman until she passed out and slammed her head repeatedly into the ground. Woods continued assaulting the woman until one of the passengers pulled him off the woman, according to police.

Woods is the first person in Cumberland County to be charged with a new law that makes it a felony offense to attempt to strangle a victim.

He is being held in Cumberland County Prison in lieu of $9,900 bail and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. Jan. 30 in front of Magisterial District Judge Anthony Adams.

Prior to the law taking effect in December, attempted strangulations were classified as misdemeanor simple assault, which state law defines as attempting to cause or causing another person bodily injury, or felony aggravated assault, which is defined by state law as attempting to cause or causing serious bodily injury to another person.

In a letter introducing the bill, Rep. Becky Corbin, R-Chester County, wrote that attempted strangulation is prevalent among intimate partner violence and can be an indicator of future homicide in domestic violence cases.

However, Corbin noted that ambiguity in Pennsylvania’s laws against assault have allowed some offenders to be charged with a misdemeanor, undermining the severity of the action.

“(B)ecause most strangulation victims do not have visible injuries, strangulation cases can be minimized or difficult to prove,” Corbin wrote. “Oftentimes, there is no external injury that is evident.

“Strangulation, therefore, does not neatly fit into existing criminal categories in Pennsylvania,” she said.

There are approximately 35 other states with a law specifically addressing attempted strangulation, according to Corbin.

Article Source: First person charged in Cumberland County under new strangulation law