By Joe Johnson
An Athens man was arrested recently arrested on a federal gun charge, less than three months after he was sentenced to probation for a domestic violence incident in which he reportedly beat and strangled a 23-year-old woman.
Nicholas Dante Watkins, 32, of Colima Avenue, was indicted Nov. 16 in U.S. District Court’s Athens Division on one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
According to the indictment, Watkins had in his possession a Ruger 9mm pistol when arrested in Athens in April.
On Sept. 8, Watkins entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and battery.
As part of his probation, he must complete a Regional Substance Abuse Treatment program.
According to Athens-Clarke County police, the incident occurred on Dec. 2, 2019 at the Broadacres Homes housing complex on West Broad Street.
During the incident, police said, Watkins strangled the victim and punched her numerous times and threatened her life. The victim coughed up blood after being assaulted, police said.
According to a police incident report, officers responded to a 6 a.m. 911 call from the victim’s cousin who reported that Watkins had pulled a knife on the victim and threatened to kill her.
When officers arrived, Watkins had already left the scene but they saw a trail of blood in the victim’s apartment that went down a hallway to a bathroom, according to the report. They also noted some blood on the hallway wall.
When interviewed, the victim told officers that while they were drinking, Watkins began hollering about text messages on the victim’s phone and accused her of cheating on him, according to the report.
After punching the victim several times in the face, Watkins allegedly took her to the ground and strangled her to the point she was about to lose consciousness and thought she was going to die, according to the police report.
The report noted that the blood trail was from the victim coughing up blood as she made her way down the hallway to the bathroom.
After the fighting stopped and the victim took Watkins' belongings outside and told him to leave, the man allegedly threatened to kill her while having a knife in his pocket, causing the victim to lock herself in the bathroom, according to the report.
When Watkins later returned to gather his belongings, another argument erupted in which he allegedly hit her in the face again and damaged her TV by kicking it. He also allegedly used the knife to stab a microwave oven, according to the police report.
The victim said she went outside and was sitting in a friend’s car as she waited for Watkins to finish collecting his belongings, and that Davenport opened the car door where she was sitting, grabbed her by the shirt and began hitting her face again, according to the report.
An officer observed injuries to the victim's face and blood spots in the whites of her eyes -- a telltale sign of strangulation, according to the report, which noted that Watkins and the victim had lived together off and on for three years.
After further investigation, police obtained warrants charging Watkins with aggravated assault, family violence battery and criminal trespass/damage to property, according to the report.
When arrested, Watkins was booked into the Clarke County Jail for the additional offenses of theft by receiving stolen property, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and three counts each of possession of cocaine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, according to the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office.
All of those charges were dismissed on Sept. 8, according to a Notice of Disposition of Warrants and Merger of Bond in Cases Bound Over to Superior Court.
“it is not unheard of for the U.S. Attorney's Office to work with the District Attorney's Office and get charges dropped at the State level so that they can be indicted at the federal level,” said Lt. Shaun Barnett, ACCPD’s public information officer.
Since being arrested Friday, Watkins had been detained at the county jail until Monday morning, when the U.S. Marshals Service took custody of him for a federal detention hearing, according to court records.