By Brandi Makuski
Court security was heightened on Friday as a Plover man who beat his girlfriend nearly to death was sentenced to prison.
Jason Hyatt, 36, remained in handcuffs during his Nov. 4 hearing, which lasted over two hours. He spoke at length before being sentenced to 11 years in prison, and seven years on extended supervision, by Judge Thomas Eagon.
“I’d like you know to me,” Hyatt said to Eagon. “I have trouble making coherent statements and staying on task.”
Hyatt and his lawyer, Brian Severson, took turns Friday refuting several elements of the pre-sentencing report, also arguing against prison time, saying he would be better served in a substance abuse treatment program because most of his problems stemmed from alcohol abuse.
Hyatt’s father, Robert, spoke on his son’s behalf, saying the victim knew how to “push Jason’s buttons”, but adding his son had a “good person inside him”.
The victim in this case, Jennifer Lin Nilsen, also spoke during the hearing. She previously shared her story with the City Times last October.
“I don’t even know exactly what to say at this point, but to let the court know, on the record, the impact this has on my life, the lives of my family and my four kids,” Nilsen said, who also provided a written victim impact statement to the court. “This being drawn out over 37 months has affected us greatly and we’ve been unable to heal. We deal with healing from this everyday. There might not be a physical body to bury because of this incident, but there are definitely five people that [sic] died that day.”
Hyatt was arrested in October of 2013 after beating Nilsen with a baseball bat, then attempting to drug her before holding her captive over a course of about seven hours in their Plover home. Hyatt has denied ever using a bat, and during the pre-sentence investigation he referred to her as a “serial victim”.
Assistant District Attorney David Knaapen told Eagon he found it “interesting” that Hyatt’s father would choose to blame the victim. When Knaapen pointed out it was Jason Hyatt himself who admitted to provoking the victim in his pre-sentencing interview, Robert Hyatt quickly stood up in the gallery and attempted to approach his son, but received a stern warning from deputies in the room and returned to his seat.
“The defendant has managed to provide information or made comments minimizing what he has done, and lays the majority of the blame on the victim,” Knaapen said. “I found particularly offensive his comment where he referred to her as a ‘serial victim’ and that nothing she said could be believed.”
Hyatt’s case has experienced several delays, due in part to his having gone through no fewer than seven lawyers since being arrest for the crime three years ago. He previously had reached a plea deal with Knaapen, pleading no contest last Oct. to second-degree recklessly endangering safety, false imprisonment and bail jumping. The charges of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, intimidating a victim and aggravated battery were dismissed.
“I have to say, after reviewing the facts as described in the pre-sentence investigation, this had to be one of the most brutal, savage and prolonged attacks that the court has seen in it’s years on the bench,” Eagon said.