Tennant Trial: Opening Arguments Laid On The Table

T. E. McMorrow
Patchita Tennant, who faces four felony charges, is shown here during a break in the trial’s first day of opening arguments testimony.

The trial of Patchita Tennant on four felony charges, including attempted murder, began in the Riverside courtroom of New York State Supreme Justice John Collins on Monday, March 9, with the prosecution and the defense making their opening arguments to jury.

Tennant, a manager of the Pantigo Road CVS in East Hampton, is accused of shooting her boyfriend, Andrew Silas Mitchell, three times with a .38-caliber revolver at their Flanders residence on Pleasure Drive the night of September 5, 2019.

It is a trial that is going to come down to the credibility during their testimony of the only two people who know for certain what happened the night of September 5: the accused, Tennant, and the man her defense team acknowledges she shot, Mitchell.

Both Eric Aboulafia, the lead lawyer on the case for District Attorney Tim Sini, and Matt Touhy, who is heading up the defense team, agreed on one point during their presentations: that the victim, Mitchell, was cheating on Tennant, his longtime girlfriend. The couple have a four-year-old daughter together. “During the course of their relationship, he was unfaithful,” Aboulafia said.

He told the jury that Mitchell had taken a solo trip abroad the summer of 2019, during which he became involved with another woman. “He invited her to return with him to this country, and become his secretary,” Aboulafia said. Mitchell got her a place to live, for which he paid for.

“On September 5, 2019, the defendant knew all about Mr. Mitchell’s infidelity,” Aboulafia said.

The prosecutor told the jury that on September 5, Mitchell had gotten out of the shower. He closed the bathroom door, the prosecutor said, because he was naked and he thought their daughter was in the next room with her mother, when she was actually at a relative’s house. Tennant knocked on the bathroom door, saying she needed a scarf for her hair. Mitchell handed her the scarf, then closed and locked the door.

“Why is the door locked?” Tennant demanded, according to Aboulafia. “She began banging on the door.” According to Aboulafia, Tennant, who is six feet tall and a former athlete, broke through the door. “She was holding a gun with two hands, and she was pointing it directly at him.” According to Aboulafia, Tennant then told Mitchell, “You aren’t going to marry me. I’m going to kill you and kill myself.” Tennant fired the gun, shooting Mitchell in the chest, the prosecutor said.

She left the bathroom, going into the adjoining bedroom. According to the prosecutor, Tennant jumped onto the bed, and pulled the trigger again. In the prosecutor’s narrative, Mitchell, already shot twice in the chest, wrestled with Tennant for the gun, getting his finger into the trigger, when he tried to squeeze off shots to empty the .38.

Tennant fled out the door, Aboulafia said, with Mitchell following her, the prosecutor said. Tennant drove off in her Hyundai Santa Fe SUV.

According to the prosecutor, Tennant’s intent to kill Mitchell is evidenced by her actions after the shooting. Having left her purse in the house, Tennant drove to a CVS in Manorville, where she purchased a disposable cell phone with cell phone minutes, a container of water, and a shirt.

Four hours before the shooting, he said, Tennant had purchased a quantity of cleaning supplies from the CVS where she had worked, and is currently on leave from, in East Hampton.

According to the prosecution, an unspent bullet matching those that Mitchell was shot with was found in Tennant’s purse. Mitchell, severely wounded, was medivaced to Stony Brook University Hospital, which is a trauma one center.

“In this case, technology is going to reveal and expose her intent,” Aboulafia said. “Common sense,” he continued, will lead the jury to finding Tennant guilty.

Touhy, naturally, had quite a different take on the relationship between Tennant and Mitchell. He said Tennant was the victim of repeated domestic violence incidents. Touhy said the case was about “self-defense, and reasonable doubt.”

He painted Mitchell as “a constantly scheming and manipulative guy.”

“There were only two people there,” Touhy said. “At the end of the day, there are two stories here. She is going to testify. She is going to give her side of the story.” Touhy said that “Mr. Mitchell is the one who had the gun.”

It was self-defense, Touhy said. “After he was shot, he still ran after her. The reality is, he regained control of the gun, and he was still coming after her.”

“The bad guy here is Mr. Mitchell. He is the schemer. He is the one who had the gun,” he said.

Touhy asked the jury about the prosecution’s claim that Tennant bought cleaning supplies hours before the shooting, “So what?”

“Beyond a reasonable doubt,” Touhy told the jury. “You are going to keep hearing me say that, like a wave, again and again and again. You are going to believe my client. You are going to find my client ‘not guilty.’”

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