Former Leon County Commissioner Enters Plea in Attacks on Wife

By Julie Montanaro
March 5, 2015

A former Leon County Commissioner accused of threatening his wife with a pipe and a gun will avoid serving any prison time, but will be on probation for the rest of his life.

Dan Winchester's plea came today nearly six years after the crime.

His ex-wife flew back to Tallahassee to tell the judge what happened and how it impacted her and her children.

"Dan told me a week before I left that if I ever leave with the boys, he would put a bullet in my head or have it done. He went on to say that he wouldn't miss."

Denise Winchester described one terrifying incident after another in September 2009.

She described her husband pacing at the foot of the bed with a gun and in another instance threatening her with a metal pipe.

Her husband, Dan Winchester, a former county commissioner was ultimately arrested for stalking, aggravated assault, kidnapping, domestic battery and more.

"Dan often told me that if I called the Sheriff's Department they wouldn't believe me because they were his people along with his judges. Tallahassee was his town and they would believe only him," Denise Winchester said.

"Do you swear and affirm that all of the answers you give me will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?" Judge Terry Lewis asked.

"I do," Winchester said.

Now nearly six years later, Winchester entered a no contest plea to 16 charges. Most of them are felonies.

He's been receiving mental health treatment at Florida State Hospital since soon after his arrest.

The plea will require him to be on mental health probation for the rest of his life, but he won't do any time behind bars.

"When you reach that point and the mental illness is out of control, and you can't hide it or mask it, it's troubling,” defense attorney Tim Jansen said. “We firmly believe if we had gone to trial the jury may have found him not guilty by reason of insanity."

"Our primary concern was to protect his victim - both his wife and children from any further contact with him and to make sure he was getting the mental health and counseling treatment that he needs." prosecutor Georgia Cappleman said.

Among the conditions? Dan Winchester must wear a GPS monitor until his youngest child graduates from high school, he is forfeiting his parental rights and must have no contact with his ex-wife and their two sons.

The plea deal also required Winchester to voluntarily commit himself for further mental health treatment, only to be released by doctor's orders.

By: Julie Montanaro
March 5, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Former Leon County Commissioner Dan Winchester has entered a no contest plea to 16 criminal charges in a series of attacks on his wife.

The plea deal comes nearly six years later. Winchester has been at Florida State Hospital ever since.

The plea deal calls for Winchester to return to Florida State Hospital until doctors decide he can be released. That would be followed by a lifetime on probation.

Winchester is accused of aggravated stalking, aggravated assault with a firearm and a deadly weapon, domestic battery by strangulation and more.

His wife is addressing the judge now.

March 5, 2014
By Julie Montanaro

This week a judge ruled that former Leon County Commissioner Dan Winchester is competent to stand trial.

That trial is set for June 9th.

[UPDATE] 8.8.2012 by Julie Montanaro

A former Leon County commissioner facing more than a dozen felonies for assaulting his wife will not be standing trial anytime soon.

A judge has ruled Dan Winchester is once again mentally incompetent to stand trial. He'll be sent back to the state mental hospital in Chattahoochee.

May 4, 2011 by Julie Montanaro

A former Leon County commissioner is now set for trial as doctors deem him competent to proceed.

Dan Winchester faces more than a dozen felonies. He's accused of beating his wife and threatening her life. Soon he'll be making the trip from the psychaitric ward to the jail.

Winchester was not in court this afternoon, but he will soon be brought back to face charges of domestic battery, aggravated battery, sexually battery, and more for a series of assaults on his wife back in 2009.

A judge has just deemed him competent to stand trial.

"His competence is what allows us to proceed with all the things we need to do to get ready for trial. We can't really do anything with the criminal justice system until the defense understands the nature of the proceedings," prosecutor Georgia Capellman said after the hearing.

Attorneys stood before the judge Wednesday afternoon and based on two psychiatric reviews, all agreed Winchester was competent to proceed.

A trial date was set for October 10th.

The former county commissioner was arrested in 2009, his wife reporting he locked her in a shed, terrorized her with an iron pipe and on one occasion paced back in forth in front of the couple's bed with a gun in his hand, threatening to kill her.

The competency ruling comes almost nine months to the day after Winchester was sent to Florida State Hospital for treatment for bi-polar disorder. His attorney worries what months of waiting in jail will do to him and he's not ruling out an insanity defense.

"We believe the evidence will show during a time period he was suffering a severe mental illness, We may, I'm not saying we will, but we may include a possible insanity defense," said defense attorney Tim Jansen.

We have no word when Winchester will be transported from Florida State Hospital to the Leon County Jail, but an LCSO spokesman says it should happen within a week or so.

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