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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include that King pleaded guilty to a class B felony of first-degree assault.
A Springfield man who was caught on a security video punching a woman in the face was given probation by a Greene County judge Sept. 5.
That video somehow made its way to social media platforms and went viral, even resurging several times in the months that followed the attack.
Rostell Caleb King, 28, pleaded guilty to first-degree domestic assault causing serious physical injury in May for an assault that happened in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 10, 2022.
Under Missouri law, a first-degree domestic assault, class B felony is punishable with five to 15 years in prison.
Circuit Judge Daniel Wichmer sentenced King to 10 years in prison, but suspended the execution of that sentence — given King successfully completes five years of supervised probation.
Just before he was sentenced, King turned to the victim, who was seated in the courtroom, and apologized. He also apologized to anyone who watched the viral video of him punching and kicking the victim, his ex-girlfriend.
“That is not who I am,” King said. “It was 10 seconds — I let my emotions get the best of me.”
The female victim — identified by her initials in court documents — was beaten inside the Vue on Walnut, an apartment complex at 430 E. Walnut St.
The video shows King walking up a flight of stairs and the woman walking down some stairs. They meet on a landing and King immediately punches her in the face, knocking her to the ground. The video shows King punching her again while she is on the ground, and then King kicks her three times. He then walks back down the stairs.
According to court documents, King did not say anything to the woman during the assault. A few seconds of video later, two young men pass by the victim, who is curled up on the ground, and offer no assistance. The two men open the door behind her and exit the stairway.
According to Greene County Jail records, King is 6-foot-3 and weighs 250 pounds.
The woman needed 12 stitches in her face and also had a broken tooth.
At the sentencing hearing Tuesday, members of Kings’ family spoke about how King played football and wrestled in high school and played football in college. According to his family, King tried out for the NFL twice, but didn’t make it.
His mother told the judge that King also got his firefighter certificate, but decided that line of work wasn’t for him. Instead, King was trying to make it as a rapper at the time of the assault.
Warning: the following video contains material that may be harmful or traumatizing to some audiences.
Screenshots on Soundcloud
In addition to playing the video of the assault, prosecutor Jacqueline Ledezma played a portion of two rap songs King uploaded to his Soundcloud site soon after the assault. Based on the lyrics, King was attempting to capitalize on the assault, Ledezma said.
One song titled “Fade Her” included the lyrics: “I ain’t pleading to no sh*t. Slap that b**ch in front of the judge.”
The other song titled “On the Run” included the lyrics: “Kill the feds. Kill the witness.”
King’s post to Souncloud included a screenshot from the viral video of the assault, Ledezma said.
King’s father, sister and mother all spoke at the sentencing hearing, telling the judge that the lyrics were part of King’s rap persona.
Bloody police photographs
According to court documents, a Springfield detective received a copy of the video the day after the beating in the stairway and began investigating.
According to court documents, an officer was dispatched to East St. Louis Street and South Kimbrough Avenue in reference to multiple gunshots and a woman yelling for help. The officer didn’t find any evidence of a shooting, but found the woman with fresh blood coming from her head.
In court Tuesday, Ledezma showed a photo by a police officer of the victim taken moments after the assault. Her head and neck were covered with blood. Ledezma pointed to what she said appears to be a footprint on the victim’s head. The prosecutor also showed a photo of a puddle of blood from the stairway where the assault occurred.
When police asked King why he assaulted the victim, he said he had heard she was trying to set him up to be robbed. Ledezma said there’s never been any evidence supporting King’s claim.
Victim speaks in court, said she has been threatened
The victim spoke at King’s sentencing hearing, telling the judge she still has nightmares about the attack. She said King’s friends have threatened her because she cooperated with police.
“He told everyone I was trying to set him up,” she said. “I’ve had people threaten me, call me a rat.”
King’s sister, Julia King, cried as she addressed the judge.
“He has never displayed any sort of violence toward any human being. We are devastated,” Julia King said. “It pains me to watch what he did, and my heart goes out to (the victim). It’s not OK.”
King’s father, Richard King, also cried when speaking to the judge, saying he did not raise his son to be abusive.
“He’s been respectful to all the women in his family,” Richard King said. “What triggered this, I don’t know.
“I feel like I’ve failed,” Richard King said. “Hopefully one day he can regain his dignity back. … He wasn’t raised like this.”
Richard King said paying for all the classes, therapy and legal fees for his son has “drained us financially — every dime.”
Defense attorney Adam Woody told the judge King has completed an eight-hour domestic violence course and 16 hours of anger management, in addition to counseling. King also had an MRI and CT scan to check for possible issues stemming from concussions from King’s football days, but the scans did not support evidence of brain damage.
As Judge Wichmer explained his reasons behind giving King a chance to complete supervised probation and avoid prison, the judge pointed out that King has a job and is helping support his two-year-old son, in addition to needing to pay back those who’ve helped with attorney fees and restitution of $613 to the victim.
The judge made it clear to King if he violates probation, King will serve the 10 year prison sentence.