Former TV fitness instructor Francis Usanga has been ordered to carry out 100 hours community service to avoid a five-month jail sentence for punching his former partner.
Mother-of-two Emma Murphy told a court she was struck in the face in front of their children when she confronted Usanga about cheating.
Usanga, a 31-year-old Dubliner and former Today show fitness expert, denied assault causing harm to fitness blogger Emma Murphy during a row outside his former workplace at FX Fitness gym in Santry in north Dublin on July 3 in 2015.
Following the attack, Emma Murphy made video about her ordeal which went viral on the internet and she appeared on ITV's Loose Women. If she hadn't spoken out she would have remained in an abusive relationship with Usanga, she had said during the trial.
A video she posted online in which she which she still had a black eye and a swollen face has been viewed more than 10 million times.
However, she declined to comment to reporters after the case ended today.
Usanga, with an address at Lanesboro, Finglas, was found guilty last month after he went on trial before Judge Bryan Smyth at the Dublin District Court.
The court was told she was punched in the face and left with a black eye after she confronted him.
Judge Smyth did not accept the 5’10 fitness instructor’s self-defence claim that he pushed her away because he was in fear of her or the argument that this was justifiable force. Usanga had also told the court that he was surprised by her injuries which he thought was make-up.
Today, Judge Bryan Smyth finalised the case after being furnished with a revised victim impact statement from Emma Murphy which was not read out in court. She was on the back row of seats with relatives and supporters while her former partner sat silently on the defendant’s bench.
Legal issues arose two weeks ago in relation to a previous draft of her statement which the defence said contained allegations which were “totally, utterly prejudicial and untrue”.
The judge had said that, “a victim impact statement could not be used to bring in other matters that may well be relevant to their relationship but the court has to deal with what is before the court, and it is in relation to that offence and that offence only.”
Today, he referred to a Court of Criminal Appeal ruling that stated a victim impact statement which contained anything untoward can be treated as a contempt of court and if it involved unfounded, scurrilous allegations that could be taken into account in mitigation of sentencing. He also said he had only read the first line of the original draft of the document.
Defence solicitor Michael Hanahoe told the sentence hearing it was different to a normal domestic assault in that Usanga had been confronted by the victim earlier at a shopping centre and she had thrown a phone at him during another confrontation outside his work place, and as a result of that she was struck a blow.
Mr Hanahoe argued that the situation was different to normal circumstances because his client had tried to avoid a confrontation.
The judge reiterated that he had found Usanga guilty of punching his former partner during the incident as a result of which she sustained a black eye.
The defence solicitor said his client had been appearing on RTE television and had run his own gym but that all went after Ms Murphy went viral on Facebook about the incident and became a “cause celebre”.
Usanga has been “reduced to going on a scheme through social welfare, a back-to-work enterprise scheme” and he now lives with his mother, the solicitor said.
His client gets €193 a week from the scheme and is allowed earn another €100 by giving lessons.
He is paying maintenance and his behaviour since the incident has been impeccable, the solicitor said. He also continued to have regular access to the children and collects them from Ms Murphy’s home, the court heard. The defence told the court Ms Murphy had appeared at conferences and on TV and Usanga, who has no previous convictions, was her subject matter.
The solicitor said she appeared on an English TV programme a fortnight after the incident.
Mr Hanahoe argued that, “the injured party bypassed the court system and put out a version of events, he has suffered greatly by that”.
Judge Smyth gave Usanga 100 hours community service in lieu of a five-month sentence after a probation officer met with him during a recess in the proceedings today and found he was suitable.
During the trial, Ms Murphy said Usanga was the father of her two young children and they had been in a relationship for three and a half years which she described as “really bad, toxic”. On the day she went with her children in the car to the gym to talk to him about their relationship and his cheating, she said.
She asked him if there was a girl in the gym and he said “no”, she told the court. She said there was a “loads of verbal abuse” and he had told her to f*** off after she asked for his phone. She told the court there had been “a crazy amount of cheating going on” and she wanted to call one of his friends to ask him if Usanga had been with him over the previous Father’s Day weekend.
She said she needed to get to the bottom of it “because it was not fair on me, it was not fair on my children”. She said at the gym he gave her a phone and she went outside with it and she claimed she discovered more cheating.
“I said, ‘you cheated on me again’,” she told the court. She said she was disgusted and threw the phone in his direction and he then punched her in the face. “He straight up punched me with his hand, his fist”, she said.
She told the court she was hit on her left eye and was “utterly distraught”. She said her children, then aged six months and 18 months, were in the car.
She told Judge Smyth her former partner said “you broke my f***ing phone” and as he went to pick it up she got in her car and drove away. Her eye was swelling and going red at the time, she recalled.
She said she put ice on it and her brother took photos of her injuries which were shown to the court.
She rejected several claims put to her by the defence: that during an earlier meeting that day at the Ikea car park she was confrontational and angry, forced him to leave in his car, that she sped after him in her own car with her children on board and tried to cut him off at the gates.
It was put to her that he had been a celebrity and she broke into his Facebook account telling his 10,000 followers she had been assaulted by him and “that was the type of person he was”. She agreed that she shared a video.
The defence suggested this an attempt to “destroy him” but she replied, “it was my attempt to get out of an abusive relationship, if I had not I would probably still be there.”
“Sharing a story can help other women,” she said.
In the witness box she had held up a photo of her injuries and had said, “This is me, this is my black eye.”
Usanga, in evidence, claimed he was in fear for his life of Ms Murphy. “I used my hands to push her away, I didn’t know what she was going to do," he claimed.
A former BScene model, he also appeared in Jennifer Maguire’s dating series, One Night Stand, in 2010. The fitness instructor told the trial that at the time of the incident he had not reached the pinnacle of his career and was not yet “worldwide” but just “a local health and fitness guy in Ireland”.
“I pushed her to stop attacking me,” he claimed.
He also said he thought her injuries were “make up”.