Monday 23 September 2019

TV fitness coach found guilty of assaulting mother of his children

Francis Usanga was found guilty of assault causing harm to his ex-girlfriend, model Emma Murphy
Francis Usanga was found guilty of assault causing harm to his ex-girlfriend, model Emma Murphy
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A CELEBRITY fitness expert has been found guilty of assaulting the mother of his children by punching her in the face when she accused him of cheating on her.

TV fitness coach Francis Usanga (31) punched his then-partner, model Emma Murphy in the eye in an attack outside his north Dublin gym while their babies waited in her car.

A court heard a Facebook video Ms Murphy shared after the assault went viral and Usanga claimed this was done in an attempt to “destroy” him.

Ms Murphy insisted by posting the video and giving media interviews, she had been speaking out about violence against women and “sharing her story with other women.”

Usanga claimed he only pushed her and did this in self defence, saying she threw a mobile phone at his head and he felt his “life was in danger.”

However, Judge Bryan Smyth found him guilty and adjourned sentencing to give Ms Murphy time to prepare a victim impact statement.

Usanga, of Lanesboro, Finglas pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to Ms Murphy outside his gym, FX Fitness in Santry on July 3, 2015.

Ms Murphy hugged her father when the judge made his decision following a trial at Dublin District Court.

Emma Murphy leaves the Dublin District Court after her ex-boyfriend Francis Usanga was found guilty of assaulting her
Emma Murphy leaves the Dublin District Court after her ex-boyfriend Francis Usanga was found guilty of assaulting her

In evidence, Ms Murphy said she had been in a relationship with Usanga for three and a half years and it had been “bad, really bad, toxic.”

At 4.30pm, she went to his gym with her two children aged six months and 18 months in the car, to talk to him about events in the relationship and about him “cheating on me again.”

He was walking out as she pulled up and she asked him was there a girl in the gym.

“He said ‘yeah, do you want to meet her?’” she told the court.

Ms Murphy asked Usanga if she could use his phone as she had none, and he said no and “there was loads of verbal abuse.”

He told her to “f**k off” and that she was not going to use his phone.

“I wanted to ring his friend Michael because there had been a crazy amount of cheating in the relationship and I wanted to ask Michael had he been with him on the Father’s weekend,” she said. “I needed to get to the bottom of it because it wasn’t fair on me and it wasn’t fair on my children.”

He eventually gave her his phone and she had a conversation and “discovered again there was more cheating.”

She told him “you cheated on me again” and threw the phone in his direction, she said.

“He punched me in the face,” she told the court. “He straight up punched me.”

She said it was with his fist and it hit her left eye.

“I was completely and utterly distraught,” she said. “It was bad enough that he was cheating and then it came to another black eye. He said ‘you broke my f***ing phone’ and went to pick it up and I got back into my car and drove to my sister’s.”

Ms Murphy said her eye was swollen and very red.

She went to a doctor and put ice, water and aloe vera on it.

In cross-examination, she told Usanga’s solicitor Michael Hanahoe that anger may have been one of her emotions on the day.

“I had millions of emotions,” she said.

She admitted that in an earlier incident that day, she had met the accused in the Ikea car park, where she sped after him in her car and tried to cut him off at the gate.

“I was extremely emotional,” she said. “I was all over the place.”

She accepted it was not appropriate conduct as she had her babies in the car.

Mr Hanahoe put it to her she followed Usanga to the gym to confront him. She said it was to “discuss our domestic matters.”

She denied she “came at” the accused in a threatening manner and that he pushed her away with the palm of his hand.

“That is not true, I was punched in the face,” she said.

Ms Murphy could not explain why she told a doctor later she did not know whether she was hit with an open hand or a closed fist.

“My mental health was not as it is now,” she said. “I was in a really distressed place. My world had been turned upside down.”

“I was completely in shock,” she said. “Getting a blow to the face is quite shocking.”

Mr Hanahoe put it to her she did not get a blow to the face.

“This is my black eye,” she said, holding a photograph of her injury up to the court.

Read More: New trial date for TV fitness coach accused of assaulting ex-girlfriend

Mr Hanahoe put it to Ms Murphy that Usanga had been “something of a celebrity” at the time and had a TV programme (on RTE's Today show), and Facebook followers.

He said Ms Murphy “broke into his media Facebook” and “set out what you have told the court here today, that you had been assaulted by him and that was the type of person he was.”

“I shared a video,” Ms Murphy said.

Mr Hanahoe said she knew it would go to the accused’s 10,000 followers and he put it to her it was an attempt to destroy him.

“It was my way of getting out of an abusive relationship,” she said.

Mr Hanahoe said Ms Murphy had become “something of a celebrity” herself, and gave TV and radio talks and interviews to the newspapers. She was “all over the place,” but able to manage these, he said.

Ms Murphy said she had been sharing her story with other women.

Her brother Carl Murphy said his sister had a black eye and red blotches all over her face when he saw her after the assault. She was shaking, emotional and upset.

Garda Inspector Michael Mulligan  agreed with Mr Hanahoe that Ms Murphy had said in a statement she let the phone fall.

Usanga said in evidence the relationship had been turbulent “from time to time.”

He said Ms Murphy was angry and upset in the Ikea car park and questioned him about a trip he was going on with friends. He said she drove toward his car but stopped at the last second.

Outside the gym, he said, “she threw the phone at my head. She was raging, I felt my life was in danger. I used my hand to push her away. It was to protect myself.”

He said he pushed her with an open hand and she left.

After she went on his Facebook account, he lost his job.

Read More: TV fitness coach Francis Usanga pleads not guilty to alleged attack on former partner Emma Murphy

In cross-examination, he told the State Solicitor he was very fit and 5’10” in height. He said he did know his own strength as he played hurling and football.

The only place he would use force was on the sports field, he said. “It wouldn’t be to my partner, to hurt her.”

“I was surprised by the injury because I thought there was makeup,” he said.

He was asked why he said in his statement ‘possibly there was force.”

Usanga said he was under “severe pressure.”

“I hadn’t reached the pinnacle of my career yet, I wasn’t worldwide, I was only a local fitness guy in Ireland at the time,” he said.

Mr Hanahoe said posting a Facebook video that went viral was “not the actions of someone who was all over the place.”

He said if the accused had punched Ms Murphy with a fist she would have had more injuries, while because of his strength, a push would cause soft tissue injury.

Judge Smyth said he was satisfied the assault happened as contended by the prosecution and the force used was not reasonable.

Mr Hanahoe said the accused’s former partner had decided to punish him through social media and he had “suffered immensely” as a result.

He had no previous convictions.

The judge adjourned the case to a date next month.

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