Friday 20 September 2019

TV fitness expert avoids jail for punching his ex-partner

Francis Usanga leaves Dublin District Court where he was given 100 hours of community service for the assault on Emma Murphy. Photos: Collins Courts
Francis Usanga leaves Dublin District Court where he was given 100 hours of community service for the assault on Emma Murphy. Photos: Collins Courts
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A TV fitness expert has been spared jail for punching the mother of his children in the face after she accused him of cheating on her.

Francis Usanga (31) was ordered to carry out 100 hours of community service to avoid a five-month prison sentence.

Judge Bryan Smyth made the community service order after reading a victim impact statement written by Usanga's ex-partner, model Emma Murphy.

Last month, the former RTÉ 'Today Show' fitness guru was found guilty of assault causing harm to Ms Murphy outside his gym, FX Fitness, in Santry, on July 3, 2015.

Emma Murphy Picture: Collins Courts
Emma Murphy Picture: Collins Courts

Usanga, of Lanesboro, Finglas, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty, claiming he only pushed the mother of two with an open hand "in self-defence".

Dublin District Court was told that a Facebook video Ms Murphy shared after the assault went viral, and Usanga claimed this was done in an attempt to "destroy" him.

Sentencing had been adjourned previously when Usanga objected to an earlier victim impact statement, the contents of which his lawyer had described as "outlandish" and "untrue".

Yesterday, a new victim impact statement was handed to the judge, who did not disclose its contents to the court.

Defence solicitor Michael Hanahoe questioned whether Judge Smyth could continue to deal with the case because he had read some of the previous victim impact statement.

Mr Hanahoe argued that the first statement was prejudicial to his client.

A State solicitor asked Judge Smyth to proceed to sentencing and disregard the previous statement.

Judge Smyth referred to case law from the Court of Criminal Appeal that stated that a victim impact statement should be submitted to a judge and defence lawyer in advance of it being read out.

This was so both a judge and legal representatives could make sure it contained "nothing untoward".

The person making the statement could be found in contempt of court if they departed from the conditions. If it did contain scurrilous allegations, this could be taken into account in mitigation, Judge Smyth said. He said he had read only the first line of the earlier victim impact statement.

Mr Hanahoe said the case was "different from the normal type" of domestic assault.

He said Usanga had "made attempts to get away" from a confrontation. The victim threw a phone and he struck a blow, Mr Hanahoe said. Usanga had made a good life for himself, had been a participant in an RTÉ programme and had owned a leasehold on a gym and was "quite successful".

He "lost that", Mr Hanahoe said.

The leasehold had to be sold once Ms Murphy's video "went viral". From his "very good financial position" before the assault, Usanga was now reduced to working on an enterprise scheme through social welfare and was earning €193 per week.

He was out of his family home, away from his children, and was living with his mother.

The victim had made a TV programme of which the accused was the subject, Mr Hanahoe said.

She initially "bypassed the whole system" and put out a version of events and Usanga had "suffered greatly from that".

He said Ms Murphy had appeared on English television and had travelled to other countries and addressed conferences, becoming a "cause célèbre".

She was entitled to do this but it had an effect on Usanga, Mr Hanahoe said.

Neither Usanga nor Ms Murphy commented outside court afterwards.

During last month's hearing, Ms Murphy said she went to Usanga's gym with her two young children in the car, to talk to him about him "cheating on me again".

He punched her in the face after she threw a phone in his direction.

Usanga had no previous convictions.

Irish Independent

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