A Criminal Court jury on Wednesday returned guilty verdicts against a woman who used a baseball bat to express her displeasure at a repossession agent who was trying to tow her car.
Cathleen Reeves, who was the subject of a viral video of the incident, was found guilty of vandalism and aggravated assault.
She will be sentenced on April 16 at 1:30 p.m. by Judge Tom Greenholtz.
The jury earlier watched profanity-laced videos and listened to the witnesses who saw the act unfold on Nov. 15, 2018.
Prosecutor Leslie Longshore told the jury that 33-year-old Caleb Egenes had “repossessed Reeves’ vehicle. He located the car, and then went to work. And that’s when Ms. Reeves’ comes out, and she is angry. Angry that her car is being repossessed. She uses a bat to beat the truck and smash the windows, while the man is simply trying to do his job.”
Defense attorney Erinn O’Leary stressed the mindset of her client, who thought she was defending her property from a wrongful repossession. In the eyes of her client, all she saw was a strange man trying to break into her car.
“’My car bill is paid,’ you think to yourself, ‘This is theft,’” said attorney O’Leary. “The laws of Tennessee give us the ability to defend our property. Ms. Reeves did what was immediately necessary to stop him from driving away with her property.”
The man who was attempting to repossess the car said he got the order without knowing anything else about the person whose car he was repossessing, as the company he worked with had a no-contact policy. After getting his order from the company, who got the order from Santander Bank, he found her car in Forest Cove Apartments, where Ms. Reeves lived.
He began to hook the car to his truck, and had just done so when he said Ms. Reeves ran out and demanded he stop. In two videos shown in court, she could be seen screaming “Stop!” and “Put my car down!” and “The car is paid for!” Ms. Reeves then went to the back of her car while the victim went into his truck and locked the doors.
The repo man said, “She pulled out a baseball bat and started bashing it on the truck. It was unexpected. So she starts swinging from the passenger to drivers side. Before I could even blink, she was smashing out the window, and I had to jump to the passenger side.”
After Ms. Reeves stopped, the man crawled into the driver’s side and let her car down. He then drove off and into a nearby apartment complex, where he called police.
“It was crazy, scary, and too much was going on at this moment,” he said. “I needed to get somewhere safer and regain composure. I had to call police and call my bosses and let them know what happened.”
He told defense attorney O’Leary that he did his job, and had no way of knowing if the bank had made an error. His boss, Scott Moore, confirmed this, saying that his workers get orders, and they have no way of knowing anything about the people they are repossessing items from.
“It’s a private matter to the bank and the consumer,” said Mr. Moore. “As agents, we have a specific job. We go and pick up the car. There’s no reason to believe the car was recovered in error.”
Two neighbors corroborated the victim’s story. One of them called police after witnessing the act. He said, “I saw a woman attacking a tow truck with a baseball bat, and I thought someone could be hurt.”
“I was on my patio and my YouTube video ended and I heard a noise, a commotion, a ruckus,” said the other neighbor. “The tow truck driver was prepping it, and this lady was shouting ‘My truck is paid for!’ She popped the trunk and produced a bat, and then broke the passenger window and bashed out the driver’s side.”
When officer Shane Martin met with the victim, he had a cut on his nose. However, he also told attorney O’Leary that he also considered charging the victim with theft and criminal trespass. He said the victim had a work order, not an order from the bank or court.
However, he told prosecutor Longshore that he later found out that in Tennessee, something can be repossessed with a work or repossession order without a bank or court order. He said he spoke with the auto board and repossession board before making a decision.
“I guess I don’t understand the difference between a work order and a repossession order,” said officer Martin after a while.
Following his testimony, Judge Greenholtz decided to break for the evening and dismissed the jury for the night. He gave Ms. Reeves the opportunity to take the night to think about whether or not to bring in witnesses for the defense, and did the same for the prosecution.